There is no national poet in the contemporary era like the famous Sufi saint and Sindhi language poet Hazrat Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai who could elaborate the suffering of 51-year-old Khangar and other members of his community.
Khangar belongs to the musician community of Maganhar who usually play different traditional indigenous musical instruments of Sindh. Maganhar is the community to which the legendary character of Beejal is associated. Beejal was an expert at playing Surando – a peacock-shaped, five-stringed violin-like musical instrument unique to Sindh. Once Beejal went to a kingdom and started playing melancholic tunes on the wonderful instrument. King Rai Deyaj was so impressed by his music that he asked Beejal to ask for whatever he wished. Beejal asked for the king’s head and the king fulfilled his wish. Shah Latif explained this in Sur Sorath of his book Shah Jo Risalo.
Though Khangar is a Maganhar, today he doesn’t have a Surando, but only a stick that he uses to support himself while walking. Water contamination in groundwater of his village has made him very weak and caused an unnatural bend in his backbone to such an extent that he cannot walk like a normal person anymore. Though he is aware that water contamination is responsible for all his sufferings, he has no other option.
Khangar is not alone as there are around 100 residents, including women and even minor children, suffering the same fate in the village of Goth Mao Akhiraj – a small village comprising 1,200 people and located 65 kilometres in the south of Mithi town, the district headquarters of Tharparkar. The village is located adjacent to the Thar coal reserves, which China and several other countries have visited to find out the quantity of the reserves, but no one has so far bothered to find out about the poor living on a rich land.
Forty-year-old Daiman is another victim of water contamination from the same village who has heard a lot about droughts and water shortage from her grandmother, but the current situation is entirely new for her. The diseases started appearing in the village seven years ago and so far more than 90 people in this remote village have lost their ability to effectively carry out any physical activity. Residents told me that the patients initially suffer temperature and within a few days, their backbones are bent. Following that, they cannot stand straight like a normal person.
Many of these patients are now physically disabled. For most people, the Thar desert brings to mind beautiful scenes with women in traditional, colourful attire carrying pitchers and walking between the dunes, and some artistes are dying to paint such scenes, but the locals are facing horrible conditions in reality. “The reality is that women and children have to walk several miles in summer to obtain potable water,” said Taro Meghwar, another resident of the village.
According to international standards, 250mg chloride per litre water is safe, but different studies suggest that Thar Desert’s groundwater contains 2,144mg chloride per litre. Moreover, total dissolved solids are 5,414mg per litre against the allowed 1,000mg per litre and fluoride in drinking water should not be more than one gram per litre, but it is more than 18g in Khangar’s village. Contamination causes children to look much older than they actually are, with white hair, wrinkles, curved backbones and a thick layer of fluoride on their teeth.
We demand the government to send special teams to this village to investigate why the water is contaminated to such an extent,” said Association for Water, Applied Education and Renewable Energy’s Ali Akbar Rahimoon. “We also demand proper treatment for those affected by polluted water.”
Monday, 28 Nov 2011