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DADU, Oct 30 Life in rain-fed Kachho area is increasingly becoming a challenge to be faced each day by its poor inhabitants, with visible changes in environment caused by large-scale felling of trees and depleting underground water reserves.

Kachho, the western part of Dadu district, has mountainous and semi-arid terrain with sparse population mainly dependent on rains for cultivating land. They chop down trees and sell them as firewood to earn livelihood when there is no rain.

According to an estimate, local people are cutting down 5,000 trees of Jar (Salvadora oleoides) and 1,500 trees of Kandi (Prosopis cineraria) on a daily basis and selling them to middlemen.

Environmentalists say that large-scale clearance of trees has badly affected the environment of Kachho. It has also affected the rain cycle, they say.

Underground water level has dropped from 150 to 450 feet in Hairo Khan, Haji Khan, Sawro, Drigh Bala, Bakhar Shaheed, Savo Jamali, Bari, Bahleel Shah, Tando Raheem, Chhinni, Ali Murad Shahani, Jalib Rind, Fatoo Brohi, Qasim Rodhnani and other villages in the Kachho area.

Sevo Jamali, of Mohammad Umer Jamali village, said that the massive drop in water level had hit villages' economy and the villagers were facing hardships in getting drinking water. They used to cultivate crops through wells but now they had stopped it because villagers' very survival depended on them, he said.

Wazir Shahani of Ali Murad Shahani village said that underground water level had dropped to 300 feet in about 15 to 20 wells dug by villagers in the village. Hand-pumps were also not working properly to fetch water up from that much depth, he said.

Mohammad Urs of Haji Khan village said that 12 months ago, they were fetching water from 100 feet depth but now its level had dropped to 400 feet.

There had been no rains in the area for the past two years and the underground water reserves had not refilled, he said.

Khadim, a farmer of Fatoo Brohi village, said that they were poor people and they had no other source of income. Therefore, they were cutting down trees and selling the log to middle men for Rs200 per tree of Jar and Rs100 per tree of Kandi.

Ghani Alkhani of Sujawal Alkhani village said that underground water had turned brackish in his village and they had not been able to cultivate land because had been no rains in the area.

Villages in Wahi Pandhi and Drigh Bala and Put Gul Mohammad union councils have adopted drip irrigation system for cultivation of vegetables due to scarcity of water.

Mureed of Mureed Khokhar village said that he had cultivated two acres of vegetables through drip irrigation system through well water, which was found at 400 feet depth. He had sown onions, chillies and tomatoes, he said.

Bakht Jamal of Johi Organisation for Rural Development and Natural Disasters said that trees like Jar and Kandi resisted floods and protected villages and their clearance on such a large scale had endangered life of the poor inhabitants of Kachho.

Nawaz Janwari, an environmentalist, said that depletion of water resources was a threat to climate and environment in Kachho while trees clearance had caused visible climatic changes.

He said that the days had become hot and the duration of rain cycle had changed because it rained after five to seven years now. He suggested plantation across Kachho area and an end to cutting trees. If trees continued to fall, people would face a disaster, he warned.

Dadu Divisional Forest Officer Irfanuddin Shaikh said that villagers were cutting down trees on private land.