Pakistan fears mass migration from drought area : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

WIRE:05/06/2000 13:07:00 ET Pakistan fears mass migration from drought area

QUETTA, Pakistan, May 6 (Reuters) - Pakistani authorities said on Saturday a million people could abandon their homes in search of food and water in the drought-hit southwestern province of Baluchistan. State media said relief work had been stepped up in Baluchistan as well as in the drought-hit parts adjacent to Sindh province after military ruler General Pervez Musharraf ordered an immediate relief grant of two billion rupees ($40 million) on Friday.

People have started to leave several districts in Baluchistan, the chief coordinator of a drought crisis control cell told reporters in Quetta, the provincial capital.

"It is difficult to say how many are migrating since many of them are gypsies, but a rough estimate could be of one million people," Brigadier Shafqat Mahmoud said.

The state railways began running "water trains" on Saturday to take water to people and livestock in some of the worst-affected areas of Baluchistan, the official APP news agency said.

Mahmoud said army helicopters would also be used to airdrop relief supplies.

Relief officials say at least 20 people have died over the past week in Baluchistan, and Mahmoud said about two million cattle might have perished so far in the province, which borders Afghanistan and Iran.

U.N. officials in Pakistan said on Tuesday that the drought, which has also severely hit southern Afghanistan and parts of western and central India, had affected some three million people in Sindh and Baluchistan provinces.

APP said production of fruits in Baluchistan such as pomegranates, apples, almonds and cherries had fallen because of a drop in the underground water level.

"For the last five weeks civil and military teams have been working round the clock to mitigate the sufferings of the drought-stricken people," it said.

It said that in Sindh province's Thar desert area, which has suffered poor rainfall for the last three years, the underground water table had gone down considerably, with wells drying up fast or their water turning brackish.

"Acute shortage of fodder for about 3.6 million livestock heads in Thar desert has aggravated the situation in Tharparkar district and in some areas of Umerkot district in lower Sindh," APP said.

-- Martin Thompson (, May 06, 2000

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