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The Vanishing People

Giving a deserted look today, Khharochhan was once the busiest town of the coastal belt near Thatta. However, the construction of dams and barrages on the Indus River and inadequate discharge of river water paved the way for sea intrusion, eating away thousands of acres of arable land in the area.

By Kamran Khamiso Khowaja | February 2021

Indus Dalta

Khharochhan, a settlement located along the Arabian Sea Coast in the Indus Delta area near Thatta, is on the verge of disappearance owing to sea intrusion, which has already eroded the Sokhi Bunder. Unfortunately, Khharochhan is very much on the path to meet the same destiny.

Giving a deserted look today, Khharochhan was once the busiest town of the coastal belt. It had Sokhi Bunder on the one end and Keti Bunder on the other. However, the construction of dams and barrages on the Indus River and inadequate discharge of river water paved the way for sea intrusion submerging the Sokhi Bunder, the remnants of which can still be found under the seawater approximately six kilometers away from Keti Bunder.

indus dalta
The population of Khharochhan town is shrinking with every passing day. Due to the rapid erosion of agricultural lands, the local people migrated to the urban areas of the district, while the well-off families moved to some other parts of the province to make their future secure. A lack of basic amenities like drinking water supply coupled with reducing livelihood resources further added to their miseries and thus forced them to leave their ancestral abodes.

Covering an area of 778 sq. km, Khharochhan has had the status of taluka (tehsil). There is also a union council operating with the same name and is headquartered in Baghan. The Khharochhan Union Council comprises about 41 revenue villages (Dehs) and a total of 4385 households, according to 2011 statistics of the Sindh government. A report by the WWF-Pakistan reveals that natural resource pressures have resulted from insufficient water flow downstream Kotri and at least 117,823 hectares of land was lost due to sea erosion, of which 81% fell in the category of ‘totally eroded by the sea’ covering 21 Dehs (cluster of villages) out of a total of 41 Dehs in Kharo Chan, says to 2004 data compiled by the Government of Sindh.

A study carried out by this writer revealed that the population of the area has radically reduced from 70,000 to 5,000, while around 3.10 million acres of land have been pocketed by sea over the past two decades. In June and July every year, an acute water scarcity further dents the economic state of the local growers who demand the due share of river water during the particular season every year, but to no avail.

According to residents, some Reverse Osmosis Plant (RO Plants) were installed by the government but they soon became dysfunctional owing to improper maintenance. Residents believe that owing to inadequate supply of water downstream they were facing this dilemma and Khharochhan was on the verge of outright erosion. They fear if sea intrusion continues to shrink the Khharochhan land, the days are not far away when it would become part of the history.

As per international laws, Sindh, being the lower riparian, has a prime right on Indus waters. In the 1950s and 60s, the Indus delta was entirely green and fertile because of sufficient water discharges, but now the reduced and often no water flow in the river has destroyed a vast area of agricultural lands. If we happen to face a cyclone like that of 1999, it would further destroy the coastal areas and if the erosion continues, Shahbunder will also disappear by 2035, and the sea will reach Thatta city by 2050. The residents of Khharochhan have urged the provincial and federal government to take precautionary measures to save this area from further destruction. However, there is no hope in sight thus far.