Ravaged homes, tree-stumps, cesspools and a faint stench from rotten animal carcasses and unclaimed bodies —now a mass skulls and bones — are the signs of destruction on the surface. The tragedy is bigger and deeper.
“Desert flood” has taken an indelible toll on the fragile ecology of Thar.
A study by a team of Jodhpur-based botanists said the unexpected deluge in Barmer district not only “killed hundreds and destroyed property worth crores”, conservation of a variety of rare plants in the region is in peril. The waterlogged sandy stretches are squeezing life out of Barmer’s diverse fauna.
The flood, says the study, has also washed away fertile layers of soil and “unidentified” microbes — making the land fallow. A three-member team from the Jai Narayan Vyas University of Jodhpur, headed by Dr NS Shekhawat, found irreparable loss to environment, ecology and bio- diversity in the region”.
The report, submitted to vice chancellor Prof LK Shekhawat, said Barmer was not “ready to take on the deluge”, which broke a two-year drought cycle. Just before the incessant rain — from August 21-August 24 — Barmer, along with Sri Ganganagar, Bikaner, Hanumangarh and parts of Jaisalmer, Nagour, Churu, Sikar and Jhunjhunu districts, was battling a dry spell. Barmer and Jaisalmer received 600 mm of rain in four days, as against an annual average of 200 mm — or even less over the past few years.
The report says thousands of desert-specific plants like khejari, jaal, ber, kumat, rohida, ker, babul, faras, and large swathes of phog, khimp, arni, akra, bui and murali bushes, and native stocks of grasses — Shaven and Dhaman — were destroyed. The water drained the nutrient content of the soil, reducing fertility. Scientists say crops like bajra, guar, moth, moong and vegetable will not be able to grow for a few years. The report has suggested several measures to tide over the catastrophe — like setting up of a Germ Plasma Bank, Seed Bank, a nursery of desert plants to meet emergencies and save the gene-pool.
“We are planning to submit proposals to the Department of Bio-Technology and Department of Science and Technology, government of India, to help establish a Gene Bank of desert-specific plants and eco-technology centre to meet such constraints.”