February 25, 2015 (PPI-OT)
Following is the text of press release issued by Development Communications Network (DEVCOM-Pakistan)
Over a dozen selected paintings entitled ‘Life in Cholistan’ depicting the charms and miseries of the desert communities were put on display at the Devcom Lounge Wednesday organized by the Development Communications Network (Devcom-Pakistan). The exhibition is one of the three outcomes of the First Pakistan Desertcon that was organized by the Devcom-Pakistan, WWF-Pakistan and Islamia University Bahawalpur over a week back.
The moot was technically supported by the Cholistan Development Authority, Bahawalpur Museum, Forests and Wildlife departments, Pakistan Council for Research on Water Resources (PCRWR), and Sustainable Tourism Foundation Pakistan.
The oil on canvas artwork by the university and college students hailing from Bahawalpur shows the sparking talent of a far flung city. The maturity of compositions, treatment and use of space on the canvas reveals the potential of the students to paint the thematic sequences. The participating students include the five winners; Madiha Ajmal, Haneen Muhammad Asif, Uzma Kanwal, Shafaq Zahra, and Saima Mushtaq.
Briefing about the outcome of the First Pakistan Desertcon, the Devcom-Pakistan director Munir Ahmed said, the main outcome of the moot was an outline for the larger and inclusive development strategy for the Cholistan desert. It was the first initiative that engaged 60 students from different universities from Peshawar, Abbottabad, Rawalpindi, Islamabad, Lahore, and Bahawalpur; faculty members of Islamia University Bahawalpur, development experts, government organizations and civil society and media reps altogether for a field visit and a moot.
Munir Ahmed said, the speakers at the moot had consensus that Cholistan needs integrated and inclusive development efforts for the better future of desert and its communities to combat the impact of climate change. Five thematic working groups had three-day field visit to find out the factual stories of grass-root miseries and hardcore realities of the desert communities in the fields of agriculture and livestock, water, biodiversity, ecotourism and culture.
Sharing the main findings of the moot, Munir Ahmed said agriculture is owned by the external influential parties rather than the local communities that are not given priority to cultivate their land. Canal water is being provided to the large farmers injudiciously while water is not available for the communities and their livestock. There is no mechanism to promote appropriate agricultural practices in the desert.
No adequate information is available. Biodiversity is being compromised due to negligence. A large piece of Cholistan is given to Hobara Foundation being run by the UAE employees. It is the hunting field for the Arabs. Flora and Fauna is not categorized properly, and their habitat is disturbed by the external elements and human interventions. Water development and conservation strategies are absent.
The government agencies are just making the common mistakes. The cultural values are diminishing and the heritage sites are unattended. The traditional housing called gopa is being replaced by the mud/clay houses. Population is migrating to nearby towns, hence the total population around Derawar Fort is just 500 houses including 150 of the Hindus. There is a lot of potential for the ecotourism but the potential is yet to harness.
The declaration of the moot comprises the recommendations of the working groups. It suggests establishing of a larger all-stakeholders forum to initiate an integrated sustainable development strategy for the Cholistan desert. One observation of the working group on agriculture reveals that large piece of desert land has been occupied by the land grabbers and they are being facilitated by the government functionaries with water and other agricultural inputs.
The declaration suggests to promote indigenous groups for the cultivation of desert land instead of external elements. They should be given agricultural inputs on subsidized rate to make their efforts more sustainable. The moot recommended access to potable water for all, with access to water purification technologies available to every household.
It would reduce diseases, ailments and expenses on health for the poor communities. The cattle, being the only major livelihood for the desert communities need, to be vaccinated on regular intervals. The Cholistan desert has rich culture that if restored and showcased adequately would bring immense increase in tourism.
The comfortable gopas (traditional cholistani houses) shall be built for the tourists with all cultural attractions to charm the tourists. It would become major alternate source of income for the natives. Exclusive craft shops shall be part of these especially built gopas. The moot also suggests training of locals to practice eco-tourism strategies.
The biological diversity could be the main source of earning for the locals if a part of the desert converted to a safari park. The moot recommends long term public-private partnership to develop, market and mainstream livelihood alternates.
For more information, contact:Munir AhmedAdvocacy, Communications, Media and Outreach SpecialistDevelopment Journalist and BroadcasterDevelopment Communications Network (DEVCOM-Pakistan)House: 13-A, Street: 52, F-7/4, Islamabad(GPO Box 2198, Islamabad)Cell: 0333 – 516 2872Email: devcom.pakistan@gmail.comAlternate: zameenzaad@gmail.com