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October 25, 2020

Local businesses thrive as rains summon tourists to parched Thar


October 25, 2020

HYDERABAD: The recent scattered rain showers in the third week of October in Thar Desert have again brought tourists to the greenery covering the sand dunes all around.

Though untimely rainfall as always created problems for farmers in terms of disturbing harvesting process of pearl millet and guar, tourists are enjoying the green scenes, away from the polluted environment of cities and even rural areas.

Tharparkar district is one of the fewer places in Pakistan, which produces organic food crops, including grains, vegetables, fruits and precious milk, yogurt, butter and desi ghee. Some of the restaurants in the desert region prefer to serve fresh organic food to visiting customers.

Akbar Ali Thebo, once a cook and a waiter at local tea shops and restaurants in various towns of Thar, has now has launched his own food stall ‘Marvi Hotel’ at famous Dano Dhandhal stop, offering rare organic food products to tourists, who keep pouring after rains.

Sharing his experience of working as a cook, Akbar said, “I was being paid Rs250 only for the whole day. Now, I earn more through my small-scale business venture, and run my domestic affairs comfortably.”

He buys organic products from neighbouring villages, and cooks himself to entertain visitors coming from different destinations.

“We receive common people who want food or a cup of tea. Many products made from a variety of vegetables and milk and yogurt are local and organic. Desi ghee is available at Rs1,400/kg or more. It is the most costly product, which ordinary customers cannot afford,” he said, adding that “in case some clients demand for such products, we can arrange for them on urgent basis.”

Thar is known as a cradle of nature, producing a variety of edible items, which the local people consume with love. Especially, during monsoon season, wild fruits and vegetables that come to the market in large quantities always attract tourists who enjoy the organic food and take some home too.

Dano Dhandhal itself is a hub from where tourists move to different directions to see the scenic resorts, rain river/ streams, ponds and ancient Jain and Buddhist temples.

After rains, Dano Dhandhal has also become a central point where farmers sell their products to visitors directly. Many of these products are not available anywhere except in the Thar Desert.

Dr Allahnawaz Samoo, who heads Thardeep Rural Development Programme (TRDP) and belongs to Nagar Parkar area in Tharparkar District, said tourism, was one of the largest industries worldwide, offering economic opportunities to the local people.

Development of road networks in Thar has connected other cities and towns of the province, but there was a need to promote rural products in the urban centres. These villages have artisans preparing valuable handicraft products, and farmers producing crops and dairy items. They needed a proper market, Samoo said.

“We have bridged this gap between rural and urban areas by providing small vehicles like auto rickshaws, wooden motor carts and iron motor carts to the youth to help people, mostly artisans, farmers and herders for bringing milk and agriculture products to the urban markets,” he said, adding that now many people have access to the markets, where they sell their products and safely return back in the evening.

Kanahi Asnani, working with the communities for promoting livelihood to end poverty, said, “We are motivating local youth for a range of businesses, like unique organic food cafes in the area. It helps to earn a little income for the families and also brings fame to the area.”

With the development of a huge road network, puncture repair shops and other affiliated facilities have also made it easy for people to visit the area.

Local environmentalists believe that Thar was the only area producing authentic organic milk in Sindh.

Sadly, national-level studies identifying potential tourism destinations in the country do not mention Thar. Though, provincial government has built some tourist spots in Nagar Parkar, there was need to encourage the private sector to develop a tourist-friendly environment, which might also help boost financial stability in the area.

Thar offers a treasure trove of sights and sounds to the travel enthusiast.

Many visit the temples sitting atop the hills in Chooria village. The area, which turns lush green following rains has the Rann of Kutch on three sides. The village was once home to manufacturers of white choora (bangles), mostly worn by the desert women.

Gadro Tarai (wide lake) spread over 400 acres of land is another site people love to visit.

The wetland has a capacity to store water for 10-11 months for humans and livestock. Flocks of migratory birds and many other wildlife species live there.

Local people still remember Lachhman ji Kothi, the historical place where political leaders used to meet long before the partition. Rano ji Tarai (Rano lake) still exists near Chelhar, storing water to attract wildlife species, besides livestock.

Other popular places with potential for tourism in Tharparkar include Nao Kot, Karoonjhar hills, Kasbo, Bhodesar mosque and dam, Marvi Well in Bhalwa, Gori Jain Mander, Sardharo, Gaddi Bhit in Mithi city and many streams and ponds in far flung areas of the desert.

Mostly these sites are neglected in terms of development, despite holding attraction for visitors.

Wildlife enthusiasts also have a special place in their hearts for the peacocks, vultures, deer, hog deer, nilgai and other species in Sindh, which have either been wiped out completely or shifted to the desert areas. Karoonjhar hills and many other villages provide a safe habitat to the species, after depleting riverine forests, natural wetlands and old canals, which otherwise were their natural habitats.

Visitors are often greeted by the rattling of the peacocks train and their strong cries along with the melodious music and voices of local folk singers. These singers narrate the tale of how clouds gather, creating hope for the people, who may have crops for food and grasses for their animals when it rains.

Local poets long ago depicted the aesthetic beauty of Thar in the likes of peacocks’ dancing, fruits, flowers, clouds, rain, and what bounties farmers hoped to produce. These creative souls recognised the peacocks’ dance as an omen for rains.