Thar where Green Guards Protect Trees-SCOPE Initiative

Posted: March 29, 2011 in News and Views

Interview with Bharumal by Ali Palh

After seeing pictures of young people wearing green jackets and caps on  Bharumal’s facebook wall, I became curious and wanted to know more about them. Before I go further, I would like to introduce Bharumal, who is a journalist and activist working for the promotion and protection of not only human but also plants and animal rights in Thar desert, Sindh, Pakistan, I asked him: “who were these young people in green uniforms. Bharumal told me that they are called GGs means Green Guards who work for the preservation and protection of plants, trees in desert area of Tharparkar where all people live together without any distinction of color, creed, race and ethnicity. Thar is also an area where people love animal and plants like their own family members. I found it really interesting and amazing and thought would be great if Bharumal shares more about his and his NGOs work on preservation and protection of plants and also the work of GGs (Green Guards).

Green Guard or GGs

Question: What Scope has done for the protection and preservation of Gugral (Campihora mukal)?

Here is Bharumal’s answer:

Society for Conservation and Protection of Environment (SCOPE) is struggling to conserve wildlife and forests of district Tharparkar. For the protection of trees, this organization has filed a complaint in District & Session Court Tharparkar at Mithi to stop illegal destruction of Gugral (Campihora mukal). Honorable Syed Saghar Hussain Zaidi District and Session Judge/Director Human Rights called a high official meeting on Jan 21, 2010 and established Vigilance Committees for Wildlife and Forest at district and Taluka level. We highly appreciate his action.

He further added that SCOPE arranged awareness workshops in all sub-districts to involve community, civil society, media persons, social activists and line department. More interestingly, this organization has trained 200 young volunteers from union council Nangar Parkar and Pethapur (name of areas). They have got Green Guards Training in collaboration with SCOPE. Green Guard is someone who protects trees, wildlife, lessen pollution and do environment friendly activities so that we can obtain benefits from our natural resources without providing any damage to them. Does not Green Guards do a job of angels? They are known in these areas as GGs.

GGs from each village act as a watchdog to protect their natural resources, in case, anybody finds any persons doing socially and legally banned activity such as chopping tree, catching bird or wild animal, or shooting any animal. They impose penalty on that person so that remaining flora and fauna can be conserved. Government of Pakistan and its wild life department should really appreciate the work these GGs are doing with the support of SCOPE. This is the work which Government department should be doing. Thanks to these volunteers who know their duties to protect the environment in case their governments are unwilling or unable to protect the environment. Bharumal told me how much respectful these GGs are of the rule of law. Instead of taking law in their hands, they report the cases of illegal chopping of trees to both wild life department and the local police. So these trained GGs work as the ears of the Government. Are not such wonderful projects sharing the responsibilities of States which does not enough resources to do everything or they have such system which does not respond to such issues?

Training on How to Grow, Protect and Preserve Trees

I asked him (Bharumal) if he has any interesting case study to share with the people. He shared the one mentioned below:

Case Study

Love Ji and Amromal (Teachers) village Paroo jo wandio UC Nangar Parkar – Each Pupil Plant a tree of Gugral (Camiphora mukal) in the school ground

We felt, while working with SCOPE team, gugral is a precious wealth for our livelihood. Not only for human, but for livestock fodder as well. Since 1997, this plant species has been destroyed by applying chemical cut on the plant body. During cut season, our villagers, shepherds are not allowed to browse their sheep, goats and other livestock in the surrounding areas of the village because influential of the area occupy the area forcefully and distribute territories by marking some plastic bags and cloth pieces tying on the branches of these gugral plants.

Advisor to Chief Minister -Sharmila Farooqi duirng her Thar visit talking to KTN, local TV

Bharumal also shared the how their efforts were appreciated and supported by the Advisor to Chief Minister, Miss Sharmila Farooqi, who visited their villages and highly appreciated their work particularly the initiative of SCOPE’s initiative to safeguard the environment.

Frankly speaking, when I heard from Bharu about his and his people’s thinking about environment, I was surprised beyond measure. It surprised me because the level of environmental awareness of these people is equal to people live here in the United States. If we don’t use our resource judiciously and protect environment, soon we will be in a miserable position because we and our future generations will not have resources and whole our natural system will collapse.

Bharumal Briefing Sharmila farooqi about his and his team's protection measures

We have to see how these small initaitve like SCOPE make a big difference in remote and exclusive areas like Thar where Bharu and his companions are working.

He shared that, “We decided during the Green Group meeting and in the school that we must play positive role for the protection of gugral forests. Thereby, a strategy came to surface after some mutual discussion that each student of the school ought to plant a gugral shrub in the school. In addition, he/she will look after this plant and water it during recess time. We have attended Green Guards Training of SCOPE and learned many living ideas for the conservation of key species of plants and animals. We are feeling pleasure for applying this activity because we think though, this activity is small but it has a big lesson. It will induce environmental friendly behavior in the school children and a paradigm for the others.”


  1. Rakshanda Khowaja says:

    Water contamination in Thar Desert

    Fluorosis, a disease caused by high intakes of fluoride, is becoming endemic in Tharparkar with more than 250 of 950 people in Samoon Rind village having developed bone deformities, skeletal and dental fluorosis due to consumption of groundwater with high levels of fluoride.
    According to reports severe drought conditions, decreasing water level in wells and increase in salt concentration were endangering the lives of Thari people.
    Dr Tahir said that the Thar Desert had been identified as one of the most fluoride-affected areas in the country.

    In the absence of public water supply, people were compelled to use groundwater, which was brackish with high concentration of fluoride when surface water dried up, he said. Fluoride causes dental and skeletal fluorosis, osteoscalerosis, thyroid, and kidney problems when its concentration exceeds 1.5 mg/L in drinking water and the intake of excessive fluoride leads to chronic bone and joint deformations in skeletal fluorosis, for which early symptoms include sporadic pain and stiffness of joints and finally the spine, major joints and muscles, damaging the nervous system, he said. Healthcare is a major issue in Thar.

    He said that he found after research on “Occurrence, distribution and origin of fluoride-rich groundwater in the Thar desert” that the samples had fluoride values exceeding the limit of 1.5 mg/L as prescribed by the WHO

    The marginalized sections of society suffer the most. Poverty and malnutrition compound the problems. In many families, women and girls fetch water for the family every day from a long distance, from a communal source. This takes hours, depriving them of profitable working time or education. Constant lifting and carrying of heavy water pots cause health problems, particularly among pregnant women.

    The main crops grown in the area are millet, mung beans, bulgur wheat, chili and oilseed. These plants can tolerate dry conditions. However in severe drought conditions yield of even these crops falls drastically. Fresh fruits and vegetables are scarce. Successive years of low rainfall lead to scarcity of food and poverty.

    He said that fluorosis is irreversible and no remedy and treatment has so far been found except prevention by keeping fluoride intake within safe limits. Both dental and skeletal fluorosis not only affects the body of a person but also renders him socially and culturally crippled, he said.

    The research disclosed that groundwater in the areas along the north and north-eastern side of Thar, particularly in Samoon Rind, Kalario, Narovari and Sukhani villages of Tharparkar and Bhojrajio, Morasio, Ramsar villages of Umerkot district carried high level of fluoride. Samoon Rind village had a population of 950 souls, out of whom more than 250 had the disease. One or two members of each family were suffering from arthritis and a large number of elders and children were in serious need of corrective orthopedic surgery.

    A Local NGO Association for Water Applied Education & Renewable Energy (AWARE) Umerkot General Secretary Karim Bux Sheikh said that the situation in Thar region was alarming and required the government to immediately take remedial measures including, better rainwater harvesting, development of sweet groundwater and installation of defluoridation and desalination plants. The situation in Thar region is alarming and need immediate remedial measures including better rainwater harvesting

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