Counting raindrops in Thar

Published: September 2, 2010

Children transporting water which they need to survive instead of being in school

Children transporting water which they need to survive instead of being in school A local checking for available water Rainwater slowly trickles down a window at a home in Karachi

When I was penning my thoughts to share with you all, water was pouring down from the clouds in Karachi. Rain drops were splashing on my window and with each drop that dripped I pictured water traveling down the Himalayas, through the streams and rivers, making its way to the ocean, changing into vapours, reaching the skies and then pouring outside my window. The beauty of the water cycle system is bewildering!

When this precious water floods our streets and finds its way to the drains, I feel we could do so much with this it only if we knew how to utilise it. The idea of rainwater harvesting has occupied my mind for some time and prompted me to learn more about it.

One day when I was talking to a friend, who works at a highly respected fertiliser company, he told me that his company has been harvesting rain water in the Thar Desert for slightly more than a year. This made me jump with excitement! I wanted to know all about the project.

Imagine that you live in a desert where it only rains just once in a year, your house does not have any water pipelines or link to canals, your only water source is a well that is three to four kilometres away. Both male and female members of your family need to travel for hours to fetch water. Your children will not go to schools and your principle bread winner will not be able to work because they spend half the day fetching water. The same cycle is repeated everyday through out the year.

It’s hard for me to imagine myself in such a situation. Sadly, the people living in the Thar Desert face this life every day. Wells are their only source of water and the water table is declining by 11 per cent each year. Health problems are increasing since most of the water available was saline.

Fortunately a concerned group with close links to the people of the Thar community contacted Engro Polymer and Chemical Limited (EPCL) – who produce geomembranes that are used to avoid water seepage in ponds and other water bodies.

Water conservation models were built for various villages, houses and schools. It fills my heart with joy to share with all of you that the water collected last year in June from the regular rains, lasted till it rained again this year. People are using rain water through out the year which is accessible within 15 minutes.

They are healthier and wealthier as the principle bread winners now have more time to devote to their jobs and have worked to improve their living standards. Children can go to schools. Moreover, local livestock looks well nourished as well. Now that they have water in the desert, they are even trying to grow their own crops.

Isn’t it heart warming to know that some people quietly did their work and changed the lives of thousands and are still working to help all the estimated 1.2 million people of the Thar desert.

The concept of rainwater harvesting has captivated me. I dream of a Pakistan where rainwater harvesting becomes a common practice. Our agricultural lands, deserts and even the urban centres could learn to use rainwater wisely.


Zahra Ali

A freelance writer, gardening teacher and environmentalist. She has been spreading the message of natural living through her blog 'Crops in Pots' since 2008

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • sadaf

    Wonderful post! We need such people in Pakistan. We need to be those people!Recommend

  • Ali

    Thanks for sharing. Rain water harvesting is a wonderful idea.Recommend

  • SK

    Dear Zahra,
    Nice article and yes I agree rain water harvesting can literally change landscapes on one hand an lives of locals of those areas on the other.
    I believe one possible next step could be to try and get the financial figures from your friend for each of the initiatives taken in Thar- that might proide some insight into Capex and Opex involved and might actually urge people to give such projects a bit deeper look

  • Khadija Masood

    That was very informative, great article Zahra!Recommend

  • Muhammad Muzaffar Abbas

    Tremendously written and I actually worked for EPCL. Yes they actually did alot in this scenario.Recommend

  • Zahra Ali

    Thank you for your wonderful comments and appreciation:)

    Collecting rain water is very simple! I will soon post a project on my blog ( Crops in Pots) that I did few weeks back when it was raining here. It felt great to collect rain water.
    You all can do that easily. I wish more people begin to realize the importance of harvesting rainwater.Recommend

  • Zahra Ali

    @ Salman, if you are interested in learning more about it you can email me.Recommend

  • Desert

    This is a beautiful post, MashaAllah.

    Gob bless you, Zahra :)Recommend

  • Munira Zoomkawala

    This was a seriously heart-warming post on a gut-wrenching subject. Overjoyed to hear about the Engro project, and kudos to all those responsible for improving the lives of so many. God bless you!Recommend

  • kamlesh wafa pagarani

    very nice …Recommend

  • Mukesh Kumar

    Me Also From Thar. i Know very well .Rain water harvesting systems have the advantage of delivering water directly to households, relieving the burden of carrying water, particularly for women and children.Recommend

  • Bharumal

    Thank you very much for showing interest in the issue of tharparkar …
    Bharumal amrani
    Society for Conservation and Protection of Environment (SCOPE)Recommend

  • Zaheer Hussaion Gardezi

    Dear Zahra
    Good to know that you have written about Rzain Water harvesting. Professionally I am civil engineer and come from Azad Jamun & Kashmir. I have done my metriculation from interior Baluchistan, SUI, hance well aware of the Water scarcity issues of not only the Mountaineous araes but also our deserts in Pakistan. Further more, have been associated with Rural Development Sector for last 20 years, particularly with the WatSan sector, hence continually thinking about the future issues and its possible solutions of the water scarcity.
    As head of Water and Sanitation Sector ERRA, I got the opportunity to Plan, and execute the largest ever project of RoofTop rain water harvesting in Pakistan, whcih Aysha Fazal has refered in her artical of 28th March 20011 in Express Tribune
    No dout I am no more with ERRA since 1st of April this Year but you will find lot of good news and material about RWH on ERRA’s web site
    Regards Recommend

  • Madan Mehrani

    Commendable Job by Zahra Ali,
    Since I am working with Sukaar Foundation working on rain water harvesting in Tharparkar.
    Above rain water harvesting structures have been introduced by Sukaar Foundation.
    You are invited to visit these rain water harvesting structures,where a village have secured the drinking water for 8 months.

    Rain water is a only solution for the people of Thar, where access to drinking water is not a easy job.

    You may get more information regarding these projects and about water problem, just email us,

    [email protected]

    Madan Mehrani
    Sukaar Foundation Recommend