In Cholistan, water is more precious than gold and people have to walk for miles for a single drop.
Residents of the desert saw a ray of hope when the government announced in 2007 an ambitious project to bring water to 80% of greater Cholistan. The plan included laying a network of pipelines to supply fresh water and constructing massive reservoirs and wells.
However, despite the lapse of 11 years and laying over 700,000 feet of the pipeline, the Suriyan Water Pipeline project is far from completion. The project, which started in August 2007, was supposed to be completed within 18 months at a cost of Rs400 million.
“We are dying of thirst,” said a local as he carries blue plastic cans with water on the back of his camels that he collected from a well. “The pipeline has been laid across Cholistan but not a drop of water comes through it,” he complained.
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The machinery installed for pumping water is rusting and the ponds made to store the water are still dry. “The underground water that we get through boring is too salty to drink,” said another resident.
The Cholistan Development Authority MD said the scheme has been delayed due to some management and accounting problems.
“The contractors are not ready to accept payments as per the 2007 rates and are demanding that they be paid according to today’s rate,” he said. Rs114 million more is needed to complete the project, he said, adding that if the project was completed on time, it would have cost almost half.