Rights of indigenous Tharis in salt mining areas being denied

Nagarparkar: Members of civil society organisations, environmentalists, natural resources experts, conservators and local people have strongly condemned lease of the Lake Salt in Mukhai village of the Nagarparkar district, as the salt mining is being carried out in a manner that is environmentally unsustainable.

The Sindh Mines and Mineral Development had leased a vast area of some 1500 acres to to M/s Taqi Salt Mining Works and M/s Sundar Salt under an official notification issued on April 8, 2008 to the firm’s respective proprietors Aijaz Ali and Shams Din Hingorjo.

The lease agreements were signed for five years, according to the notifications available to this scribe. The locals have also complained that the mining firm is hiring labour from areas other than the area where the Lake Salt mining is located. Waris Thebo, resident of the Mukhai village, said that water of dugwells in his village and other villages has turned extremely brackish due to flying particles of the salt.

“The salt particles leaking out of the trucks and tractor trolleys, which transport salt to factories in Karachi for refining and packaging, has also turned arable lands in the area infertile,” he complained.

Giving further details of excesses of the mining firms in the area, the villagers said that the owners of firms have also encroached upon villagers’ fertile land and brought villagers dugwells and water ponds into their control.

They said that they had left no stone unturned to get their lands evacuated and water ponds and dugwells recovered, but officials of the provincial mining and minerals department, relevant district government officials left their complaints and protests unheard.

Villagers Mohaammad Ishaque Thebo, Khair Mohammad and Unar Thebo said that they approached the proprietors/lease-holders of both the salt lakes and requested them to leave their lands unharmed, but they also refused to hear their concerns.

Executive Director of the Association for Water, Applied Education & Renewable Energy (AWARE), Ali Akbar Rahimo confirmed that the owners of the said two firms have illegally occupied on the area reserved for water pond (Tarai) for villagers and their livestock on both western and eastern sides of the Mokhai village.

“When villagers protested against illegal occupations and activities by the owners of the said two salt-mining firms, they assured them for compensation.But, they never did pay compensation to the hapless villagers,” he said.

He said that the notorious owners have also illegally raised construction/occupation in front Mohaga, which is their agricultural land and cannot be granted any person under the land Grant Policy 2000 and the Land Revenue Act 1967.

An official source in the provincial mine and minerals department told this reporter that the department has already recivied a number of complaints against the owners of salt-mining firms for their illegal activities.

“We have also received the reports of violation of the agreement signed between them and the government,” he said.

Under the agreement, they were required to mark the boundaries of the leased area by erecting the cemented boundary pillars within one month of the lease agreement. But no such boundary pillars had been erected as yet, he said.

Society for Conservation and Protection of Environment’s Coordinator in Mithi, Bharumal Amrani, has urged the officials at the provincial mining and minerals department to ensure that salt-mining is being done in a manner, which is not damaging the adjoining fertile arable land.

“When salt is mined by heavy earth moving machines and transported through heavy dumpers and tractor trolleys, massive damage to other fertile lands around the leased salt-mining sites is also caused and water ponds and dugwells also taste saline,” he pointed out.

He said that the mining firms should also be made pay royality to the people of area and spending should be made for uplift of the areas, where salt-mining is taking place in Tharparkar district.

About the author

Saleem Shaikh

The writer is a development journalist. He writes on water, sanitation, environment, climate change, agriculture, women development, human rights, education, health, development budgets and economy.

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  • Thanks to Pakistan Times and Mr. Saleem Shaikh sb for reporting such an issue of indegenous people of Thar that gives birth to so many other issues ……. there are some diseases found in workers who work in salt mines, very low rates are paid ………. The asset of Thari people is taken away without paying a single penny in royality to Thari people. The elected representatives are very lazy and not taking interest, we r feeling shameful in electing these incompitant representatives.
    Thanks to Saleem Shaikh sb and hope that the efforts will result far lucrative.