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Gushing well water in Thar desert Dawn, By Shaukat Ali Rahamoo

ONE can hardly believe his eyes on seeing water oozing out from the delivery pipe of a drilled well in the shape of a fountain with pressure in a desert and that also from deep-seated strata of more than 1200 feet(400 meters). It is indeed a miracle in hydro-geological conditions of the Thar desert.

A deep tube-well in village Soomon Taluka in district Umerkot was drilled some two months ago from which a fountain of water has sprung and it is oozing out water from the delivery pipe without pumping and flowing for 24 hours.

Village Soomon is situated at a distance of 15 kilometres in north of famous Khokhrapar Railway station having nine sub-villages or paras (parts) with a population of about 1500 human souls and about 5000 live stock. The village was without any fresh water source except rainwater as wells of the village having depth of 100 feet (30 meters) are highly saline.

The village is at the fringes of hyper sandy arid area well known as quick sand desert (Achhro Thar) of tehsil Khipro district Sanghar and annual rain fall rarely reaches 8 inches (200 mm). Complete famine conditions after every 3-4 year cycle bring miseries to the inhabitants as their livestock, like cattles, sheep and goats which is main source of their livelihood, perishes due to lack of water although area usually has dry grass browsing shrubs and trees even during famine years. The area is sparsely populated and therefore, locally termed as “Roohi”.

Tube-well installation: Villagers, mostly Samoon by caste, had been passing miserable life for centuries due scarcity of drinkable water. After coming to know about deep tube-wells (about 1000 feet depth) installed by the Sindh Arid Zone Development Authority (SAZDA) in various villages of district Tharparkar and Umerkot, they approached the concerned agencies and the public representatives for installation of tube well in their own villages.

The young educated villagers formed a welfare association in the name of “ Thar Sudhar Sangat” and then approached “ Thar Deep”, an NGO which agreed to financing a tube well project on a condition that unskilled labour would be provided by the village association.

The villagers agreed and drilling work was started from March 28, 2005. First test bore up to a depth of 600 feet was failure as it was having highly saline water.

However, on the insistence of the association, the NGO management agreed for test drilling up to 1200 feet depth, although it was costly as well risky project. The second test bore became successful as on reaching a depth of 1053 feet, water started oozing out from the hole. This was a blessing for the villagers as well as drilling engineers as no such complete artesian condition was observed in any of wells drilled in Thar by other agencies although semi-artesian conditions were found in almost all the deep drilled wells where water used to rise in the pipes touching a depth of 25 to 100 feet at various places.

A 12-inches bore up to depth of 1224 feet was drilled in which six inch size filter of 200 feet length and remaining blind pipe (PVC or fibre glass) were installed. A delivery pipe of six inches is horizontally fated at seven feet height from which water is coming out with full pressure indicating an estimated discharge of one cubic foot per second (one Cusec).

The water is mildly warm at the time of discharge and with its continuous flow for 24 hours during last two months, a big pond has been formed in the land adjacent to a tube well from which the live stock of villagers is quenching its thirst freely.

The people of “Soomon” and adjacent villages are taking water from a lined tank constructed by the NGO. The water is mildly saline having total solvable salts (TSS) in the range of 2700 parts per million (PPM) with less quantity of sodium chlorides as it does not taste highly saline.

The villagers say that the water is quite fit for drinking as well other uses like cooking, washing clothes, baths etc and no problem has been observed so far. The village association is planning to construct an over head tank, install hydropower generating unit and water supply pipeline in the village for which they are looking towards the government and NGOs for assistance

Artesian or springs like conditions of free flowing water are usually found in mountainous areas due to confined aquifers at low depths and high-localized recharge due to high precipitation but it is rarely found in the deserts.

Scientific literature on hydrogeological conditions of deserts is limited and almost negligible for Thar desert. The discovery of deep seated ground water in Thar became possible only due to efforts of late Abdul Khalique Sheikh, a pioneer geologist, who ,after working for 16 years in Saudi Arabia for ground water exploration joined SAZDA at its inception in 1985. As a Chief Hydrogeologist, he prepared a project proposal for deep seated ground water investigation in Thar and Kohistan.

Mohammad Khan Junejo, the then prime minister appreciated the project and arranged deep drilling rig machines and other equipment through grant from Japan.

More than 150 wells were drilled in Thar and Kohistan some of which were more than 1000 feet deep having semi- artesian conditions and were made operational by installing pumping system. This solved acute water shortage problem of a large area in Thar. These wells had given a clue for availability of deep seated ground water, its quantity, and quality. Sufficient ground water investigation work has been carried out in Rajisthan (India) but their reports and details are not easily and readily available in Pakistan.

The results obtained for artesian conditions of deep-seated water at 1200 feet depth will be harbinger for further exploration of such wells in Thar.

Artesian water in Thar has been explored for the first time, which can bring prosperity to this neglected area and living conditions of these poor of the Sindh province. The concerned district governments need to start a well-organized programme for exploration of deep-seated ground water in Thar with financial assistance from the federal and provincial governments and international donor agencies.

Full-fledged technical organizations may be established in the concerned districts for reconnaissance surveys, investigations, exploration and installation of tube wells with participation of local people.

The NGOs interested in the well-being of downtrodden populace of Thar may be given free hand to carry out development work with full assistance from the government agencies.

For ascertaining the quantity and source of Recharge, proper surveys must be carried out and the tube wells may be installed at proper spacing so that pressure of the water remains constant.

Metalled road construction work may be accelerated to make whole of Thar area easily accessible for carrying out development activities.