During my childhood, I met numerous individuals who visited the Camel Breeding and Research Station (CBRS) for their research. While I may not have fully grasped the technical jargon they discussed, these interactions had a profound influence on my life and the lives of many others. Ali Hassan, who is now pursuing a Pharm D degree, used to express his ambition of establishing a pharmaceutical research company called Avees, inspired by the conversations with those research scholars.
The CBRS, located in Rakh Mahni, District Bhakkar, has a rich research history. Initially, it functioned as a livestock farm until 2005, when it transitioned into a camel breeding research station. CBRS is home to a diverse range of animals used for research purposes, including camels, Thari cows, Thali sheep, Hisar Hariyana cows, and more. Covering an area of approximately 10,000 acres, CBRS comprises a research centre, an animal breeding zone, and an expansive grassland. The local community in Mahni also utilises the grassland area for various purposes.
The ongoing developments in the area are causing various concerns for the local community and the overall pursuit of knowledge. The military-government alliance is altering the landscape of CBRS and surrounding grasslands, transforming them into agricultural land and encroaching on the space previously designated for animal breeding. Orangzaib, a resident of Mahni, provided insight into the current situation:
“We heard that they are eliminating the trees, destroying the shelters of natural birds, disturbing the natural setting, and finishing the grassland – which was in the use of the public.”
The local community in Mahni has opposed establishing a new agricultural setup. Ulfat Hussain, who runs a non-profit school in the area, raised questions about this:
“We have a legacy of research. Scholars come to the station, do their research, and publish it, which has been proven beneficial in the field of knowledge. Now, what? Will they transfer camels, cows, and other animals to another farm? What would they do with the natural setting form is providing?”
Ulfat’s inquiries are compelling for several reasons, as he cited examples such as Dr Sana, who conducted her post-graduate thesis on camel breeding, and Dr Masroor, who authored a book on camel biology. The camels at CBRS thrive in their natural habitat because the available food and water sources are integral to this environment. Altering the land could disrupt these natural settings and deprive the animals of essential resources.
In July 2020, a team of researchers from UAF conducted the first-ever camel artificial insemination in Pakistan, thanks to the support of the Camel Breeding and Research Station’s equipment, personnel, and conducive environment. This breakthrough has had a far-reaching impact on camel breeding not only within Pakistan but also on a global scale.
Now, the process of land dilution at CBRS threatens to impact the quality of research conducted here. This poses a significant threat to knowledge as scholars are actively engaged in research, publishing research papers, pamphlets, and books. The potential decline in the quality and accessibility of knowledge production is a looming concern, casting a shadow of uncertainty over the future.
As the trees were removed, they destroyed the habitats of various animals and birds. Thall is home to a substantial population of Grey Francolin, Quails, various snake species, rabbits, and Houbara Bustard. Within the Rakh Mahni area, the CBRS serves as a primary habitat for these creatures. Moreover, CBRS houses numerous honeybee colonies that are vital for honey production. The destruction of shelters and removal of trees have adversely affected the well-being of these animals, birds, and reptiles.
Furthermore, they did not remove the vegetation but inadvertently ignited a fire that quickly became uncontrollable, necessitating the intervention of the emergency department. Following this incident, a case was reported to the local police department, classifying it as an ‘accidental fire.
Zeba Jutt, a local of Mahni, revealed;
“I don’t know precisely what they have done, but I can tell you that I have never witnessed so many snakes wandering in the streets of Mahni as I am watching today. Thall was famous for snakes but not for the Anacondas. I am afraid of the situation. We have witnessed the hustle and bustle of Grey Francolins (Teetar) in our fields, and their shelter home was Camel Beeding and Research Station. Now, it is going dark. The modern mechanics are doing this all.”
He expressed deep concern about the situation, which is entirely justified. People in the area are well aware of the issues I mentioned earlier, such as the disruption of natural habitats and the potential dangers posed by the movement of bats.
Moreover, snakes in the streets pose a significant risk to the public, particularly children. Thall is on the brink of losing valuable bird species like the Houbara Bustard and the natural honey resources provided by local honey bees. The honey produced here is renowned for its purity because the bees are not subjected to monitoring or placed in artificial environments. It’s a truly disheartening situation.
“Numerous scholars have acknowledged that the rapid movement of bats played a role in the emergence of the coronavirus. Disrupting natural environments often leads to adverse consequences, frequently in the form of diseases. Drawing parallels with the current situation with the coronavirus, it’s reasonable to assert that disturbing the ecosystem of CBRS may potentially give rise to serious diseases, posing a threat to the residents of Mahni.”
The CBRS area is not limited to the research station; as previously mentioned, a significant portion of CBRS comprises open grasslands accessible to the public. Many shepherds have long utilised this grassland to graze their animals, a traditional practice in the local community. Additionally, many farmers in the Thall region rely on this land, which boasts abundant greenery, as a source of animal feed. Any alteration to this ecosystem would substantially impact these farmers, potentially depriving them of essential resources.
In the words of Zain, a local enthusiast,
“It appears to be an attack on the farmers. We are known for the domestication of animals, and the livelihood of our farmers depends on this. What they are doing is just a struggle to deprive the local farmers and shepherds of a blessing.
Power woes threaten crop research at Bahawalpur's agricultural institute
We are sitting here and watching them destroy everything for which we struggle to build and then make a livelihood from it. A corporate form they want to establish would never benefit the local community.”
Instead of prioritising support for local farmers, the authorities have established an agricultural venture, ultimately transforming it into a corporate entity. Investing in the welfare of farmers can yield remarkable returns. Empowering farmers not only strengthens their livelihoods but also fuels economic growth. The relationship between farmers and the government should be viewed as a mutually beneficial partnership built on trust. The entire nation can prosper by placing trust in farmers and investing in their well-being.
The transformation of the Camel Breeding and Research Station into an agricultural enterprise is proving detrimental. It’s causing numerous issues for the local community, farmers, and shepherds. This move threatens to devastate the practical knowledge base crucial for future research and the growth of Pakistan’s breeding industry. Sacrificing a source of inspiration for students, the local community’s peace, and farmers’ livelihoods is not a wise course of action.
Published on 14 Oct 2023