Hope dashing in droughty Balochistan


QUETTA – Climatic change and long drought not only dashed the dreams of Dad Muhammad but also inflicted an irreparable financial losses on him when his lush green apple garden starching over 80-acres, in Dasht area of Mastung district of Balochistan, dried before his very eyes.
Dad Muhammad, 75, a resident of Nushki district always got dejected whenever he passed through the Dasht area where he had planted over 3,000 apple trees irrigated by tubewells. He paid special attention to his apple garden but after eight years when the trees began producing fruits, the sub-soil water dropped to an alarming level.
“We dug over 13 tubewells during 8 year period and the water level kept dropping and at one stage we became completely helpless when even after digging 1200-feet tubwell could not find water, ultimately the trees got dried in increasing temperature and we had no other option but to cut them down,” he recalls.
Dad Muhammad is still working hard to recover his losses concentrating more on business instead of agricultural sector.
Like Dad Muhammad hundreds of farmers who made investment and planted apple gardens met the same fate when Balochistan and its neighboring countries Iran and Afghanistan faced a famine like situation due to lack of rain in the region.
The draught that hit Balochistan from 1997 to 2003 is said to be one of the worst in the history of the province which destroyed fruits garden particularly that of apple in Mastung, Kalat, Ziarat, Muslim Bagh, Zhob, Loralai and other areas.
A survey reveals that over 80 per cent apple trees and orchards in Balochistan were destroyed by the long draught and apple production fall by 35 per cent. Balochistan has 65 per cent share in the country’s apple production and Pakistan is the 10th largest producer of apples in the world.
A research conducted by Agriculture Department of Balochistan two years back shows over 60 per cent reduction has been noticed in apple other fruits and dry fruits from different parts of Balochistan.
“In the last decade of 1990 and onward the drought destroyed gardens of apple, cherry, apricot and other fruits in several districts of Balochistan forcing farmers to cut down the dried trees,” says Saeed Ahmed Agricultural officer, adding that during the last couple of decades draught and erratic rains the apple trees suffered a lot since they need more water and cool climate as compared to other trees.
Malik Muhammad Paana, an agriculturist, says no doubt the drought badly affected apple and other fruit gardens but in the past two decades extra-ordinary variation was observed in temperature patterns.

Temperature tale of Quetta


QUETTA – Quetta, capital of Balochistan, Pakistan’s largest province, was famous for its chilly weather, natural beauty and lofty mountains covered with blankets of snow.
Situated at an altitude of 5,500 feet (1,675m) above sea level and stretching over an area of 2653- km, Quetta has become a city of more than 2 million. But, very unfortunately, during last five decades Quetta has not only lost its peace but also the cold in summer and chilling winters.
Analysts, besides citing a number of reasons behind variation in climate of Quetta, hold extra-ordinary population growth, heavy traffic bulge, emission of greenhouse gases and rapid chopping off of trees responsible for “climate change”.
“One can observe a drastic change not only in the climate of Quetta but also in other parts of Balochistan,” says an 80-year old Muhammad Gulzar resident of Quetta, who has witnessed the changing climate living through most part of the climatic changes himself.
He says couple of years back it used to get very cold in Quetta valley but now it appears as if there is little winter despite the fact that December is about to end. “We have witnessed heavy snowfall in Quetta in winters and the mountains around Quetta valley used to be covered with snow,” he recalls, adding that owing to heavy snowfall in winters, one could see snow on the peaks of Chiltan and Mordar mountains even in summers.
Quetta city was initially designed for 50,000 people by British rulers but after 1950, its population increased manifold and in later decades of the century following Soviet invasion in Afghanistan, Quetta saw a large influx of refugees. A rough estimate says currently Quetta city is being inhabited by 2.8 million people. There are more than 0.2 million vehicles and rickshaw plying on the narrow roads of the city, emitting carbon dioxide by burning fossil fuels.
Temperature records from 1931 to 2012 compiled by Metrological Department shows a huge difference in temperature in various months and years.
On Dec 14, 1970 highest maximum temperature had been recorded 25 C while on Dec 21, 1950 the temperature had dropped to minimum minus -18.3 C. Similarly, on Feb 26, 1953 the highest maximum temperature had been recorded 23.7 C while in Feb, 1, 1970 it had dropped to minimum minus -16.7 C. In 1998 Quetta witnessed highest maximum 42.0 C and minimum minus 0.3 C in May, 1989 and -6 in Sept 1962.
Director Regional Metrological Center Quetta, Saifullah Shami says although climatic change was contributing in temperature rise in Quetta but ever growing population, cutting of trees, emission of greenhouse gases and uncontrolled and unmanaged pollution are the immediate factors. “These have affected entire eco-system in Quetta which requires urgent attention of authorities concerned so as to stop this environmental degradation,” he added.
Pakistan has the least contribution to global warming and ranked at 135th position in carbon dioxide emissions yet, it is faced with severe climate changes and has been ranked 3rd in the list of most vulnerable countries to climate change.
A recent report from World Bank warned Pakistan of the existence of five major risks related to climate change: rise in sea level, glacial retreats, floods, higher average temperature and higher frequency of droughts. Besides other impacts of increasing temperature, it has created dearth of water, dried crops and orchards located in the outskirts of the Quetta city and has also inflicted health issues.
“Quetta-city used to be free of mosquito in 1935 but with the passage of time, increase in population, lack of attention on the part of govt, the city has become a host of issues,” says Dr Irfan Baig, an environmental expert.
He says Balochistan and some other parts of the country were badly hit by a long drought from 1997 to 2003. “The drought raised temperature and the impacts of climate change were noticed not only in Balochistan but also in Afghanistan, Seistan-Balochistan of Iran and Rajasthan of India in 2003,” he added.
Baig says variation in weather has been observed not only in Quetta but also in other parts of Balochistan, including Nushki and Chagai districts where temperature has increased.
“After 2003 climate change rapidly showed its impacts that is evident from the fact that even orange and palm trees can now match with the climate of Quetta,” he said, adding that it had been observed that now winter is falling late December as compared to past.
Baig regretted over government’s lukewarm response towards this serious issue and devising no plan and formulating no policy to mitigate the impacts of climatic change that would cause serious repercussion in coming days.