* Livestock dying due to viral diseases in Achhro Thar
* Former EDO suspects anthrax behind animals’ death
Text and Photos by Amar Guriro
KARACHI: The recent epidemic of viral diseases among the livestock of the Thar Desert region that has killed more than 50 camels in Umerkot and Tharparkar districts of Sindh province of Pakistan and affected hundreds of others has now spread to the livestock of the Achhro Thar region – also called White Desert – in Sanghar district. Sheep, goats, cows and camels in different villages of Achhro Thar have started dying after being afflicted with viral diseases.
During a visit to various remote villages of Achhro Thar, the villagers informed Pakistan Today that 200 goats, 150 sheep, 17 cows and 10 camels died last month alone in Thoorahoo, Janhaar, Sobharo, Maankor and other villages near the Sadau, Ranau and Jafarau areas of the Achhro Thar region.
The Sanghar district government or the Sindh Livestock Department have not taken serious notice of viral diseases spreading in remote villages, and livestock owners are left with no other option but to administer traditional remedies to their animals.
Spread over 4,805 square kilometres along the Indian border in Sanghar and Khairpur districts of Sindh, Achhro Thar is a unique desert with vastly scattered white sand dunes with very little vegetation as compared to the Thar Desert.
The official data of the provincial government reveals that 65 percent of Sindh’s total livestock is in the Thar and Achhro Thar regions, but despite that, the government has done nothing for the large number of animals in both areas.
Even though Achhro Thar is a far-reaching region, there is not a single veterinary hospital or veterinarian in the area. “We were happy because of record rains last year, due to which our desert had become lush green and provided fodder for our animals. However, the government has disappointed us by not helping us deal with the recent wave of viral diseases,” said Allah Bakhsh Hingorjo, a resident of Sadau Goth. He said that the animals were already suffering from sore mouth, bluetongue and other diseases, but with the recent spread of viral diseases, the animals bleed, suffer abdominal pains and die within three days.
Most villagers are unable to comprehend the causes behind these diseases, and are also oblivious of the name of these new viral diseases. “We demand the government to send some teams of experts to ascertain the actual causes of these diseases and inoculate the livestock of the Achhro Thar region,” said Shams Arisar, a resident of Sadau village.
Former Livestock Karachi EDO Dr Mohan Khatri told Pakistan Today that the viral disease could perhaps be anthrax, which could prove to be fatal if not treated in time.
Experts have warned that if these viral diseases among the livestock of Thar Desert and Achhro Thar continue, Sindh – especially major cities like Karachi and Hyderabad – could face severe shortage of meat and milk.
Compared to Pakistan, the rates of livestock are higher in Iran and Afghanistan because of lesser livestock population in those countries. Moreover, the recent smuggling of local livestock to Iran and Afghanistan on a massive scale and death of a large number of animals in the floods last year have already affected the animal population in Sindh.
The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations recently issued a report that around 200,000 cows, sheep, buffalos, goats and donkeys have been confirmed dead or missing in Pakistan, majority of them belonging to Sindh.
Considering poultry losses, millions of animals have died with entire poultry stock wiped out in some areas.
The FAO also estimated that millions of surviving animals are now facing severe feed shortage, threatening the future of Sindh’s livestock. Sindh Agriculture University Tandojam Asst Prof Fatah Mari stated in a report that major cities of the province – including Karachi – might face a severe shortage of meat and milk in the coming days, as smuggling of livestock continues from different districts of the province to Iran and Afghanistan, as well as animals’ death due to floods and viral diseases.
The report also said that 80 percent of the flood-affected population relies on agriculture and animals for their livelihood, and during last year’s floods, around 1.2 million livestock and six million poultry had died throughout the country.
February 06, 2011