Book Review-Makhi: A goldmine of nature مکي سون جي دکي

Biodiversity and ecological significance.

Makhi is one of the unique and productive eco-regions of Sindh in terms of its biodiversity and ecological significance. Historically speaking, the region was a complex of three major habitats; wetlands, desert, and forest ecosystem. A wide range of natural communities inhabits the area which makes it one of the most diverse ecological zones of Sindh. Recently, the Institute of Sindhology Jamshoro has published a book about Makhi eco-region which is penned by renowned environmentalist and writer Nawaz Kunbhar. The book is the result of the decades-long dedicated research of the author about a vanishing wetland ecosystem and culture. In his words, it is an attempt to communicate the glorious past of Makhi to future generations. Here it is also pertinent to mention that Nawaz is one of the prominent environmental writers of Sindh and he is regularly contributing articles for Sindhi newspapers about climate change, wildlife, biodiversity, wetlands, environmental sociology, archeology, anthropology, and other areas. He has also authored books about threatened species of plants and trees of Sindh. Particularly, his book about Achro Thar (White desert) provides an amazing insight into the area which has largely remained an unexplored wasteland for environmental science and resource management.

His newly published book “Makhi Son Ji Dakhi”   is based on attention-grabbing information about the history, geography, anthropology, ecological patterns, flora fauna, and climatic conditions of the Makhi complex of ecosystems.   The book provides a detailed discussion about bio-geographical features of the Makhi eco-region that includes endemic species, environmental conditions, and ecological dynamics of the region. The limitless fascination of the writer with the magnificent past of the region is manifestly visible from the fact that he dedicates this book to the vanishing history and flora and fauna of the region.

Though, it is difficult to determine the boundaries of an eco-region, as, according to Gallant and other researchers there is general agreement that these ecological regions exist, but there is considerable disagreement on how to define them

Despite all these ambiguities regarding the definition and borders of an eco-region, the writer has performed a marvelous job by describing the origin as well as past and present boundaries of the Makhi eco-region. From an archeological and anthropological point of view, the book provides historical details about different villages, townships, archeological sites, and communities of the region. This includes information about archeological sites of ancient villages, local trading centers, cottage industries which speak a lot about the rich history of this region. For instance, Mithrao and Jakhrao were famous townships and trading centers of this area during the colonial period. These townships were having police stations, primary schools, and other facilities by the decade of 1930s. These townships used to play a central role in the economy of the region, but they lost their glory to the changing times and now only the ancient coins usually found during the rainy season provide clues about good old times.

Though this book is primarily focused on enviro-social dynamics and ecology of the area, the writer also briefly refers to the historical ‘Hur Movement” and other political events relevant to the history of the region. Correspondingly, the historical account of the demographic changes due to economic, environmental, and political reasons is also an interesting read. A chapter of the book also deals with the culture, lingua franca, arts, crafts, ornaments, handicrafts, musical instruments, pottery, and traditional sources of livelihood, poets, folk storytellers, singers, and other notable personalities of the region. In this context, the Dubi village of this region was well known for arms production, and according to the author around thirty shops or small arms, factories were operational in this village during the British period. Different types of firearms, swords and other weapons produced in the village were in high demand and many Rajas and Maharajas of nearby states were customers of the arms factory of Dubi.  

Apart from this, the book provides useful information about lakes and wetlands of district Sanghar.   This includes details about the historical importance and economic contribution of these wetlands in terms of fish production and providing a source of livelihood to local communities. Vital information about approximately two hundred wetlands of the district is provided with the categorization of lakes in terms of eco-friendly resources, water quality, and area. The origin of these lakes is also discussed and a detailed story of some lakes including Baqar Lake is provided separately. The stories and folk tales associated with Nara Canal inspire the reader to realize that the history of a region is utterly interlinked with the history of the waterways of the area.   However, Due to anthropogenic pressures, many wetlands have vanished and others are dying gradually along with the folk tales associated with these water bodies and ecosystems. The writer expresses his grief that the body of literature associated with the dying ecosystem is not being documented and the old generation is also passing away along with the oral history of the region. He stresses the need to record and document these tales and traditions for future generations.

Besides this, the book under review also envisages the natural and man-made forests of district Sanghar including data about native and foreign plant species introduced in the region. An inspiring account of the forest history of district Sanghar is also provided in the book together with Information about governmental forest projects, laws, and declarations since the colonial period. Quoting different oral and recorded sources the writer discusses the unique characteristics of different forest ecosystems of the district and effectively highlighted the threats to these forests. His research about these forests is not only limited to trees which are definitely an important component of forest ecology but he also speaks for a variety of other life forms and abiotic components of these eco-systems including natural communities, waterways, ancient routes, sand dunes, and oral accounts of visits of notable personalities of the country.   

While writing about the flora and fauna of the region, the writer has covered the topics of threatened species, medicinal properties, and traditional practices of the use of local plants and trees for the preparation of different products. He takes the reader to the times when Makhi was an ideal habitat of smooth Coated Otter, Marsh crocodile, and migratory as well as local birds. But gradually different species started to vanish due to environmental degradation of the ecosystems in the region. The writer provides a numerical record of species of mammals, reptiles, and other natural communities and draws the attention of the readers to the threatened species.   This includes Marsh Crocodiles locally knows as Wagu. This species with the biological name of Crocodylus Palustris is commonly found in Deh Akro Wetlands Complex consisting of 36 lakes and includes four major habitat types: desert, wetland, marsh, and agricultural land. Referring to some local sources the writer also opines that in the past Deh Akro wetlands were also interlinked with the eco-region of Makhi.

Lastly, the writer discusses the mega-development project of Chotiyariyoon reservoir in a balanced manner and provides practical suggestions to counter the environmental impacts of the reservoir. Especially, his suggestion for projects of drainage canals to counter water logging is highly relevant in the backdrop of recent rain floods in Khipro and other areas of district Sanghar.  In the same way, a suggestion to establish a national park for the protection of wildlife in the region and implementation of already announced plantation plan along with the banks of Chotiyariyoon reservoir and Nara Canal also necessitate urgent attention.

In a nutshell, this book is an attempt on the part of an environmental writer and activist to seek the attention of our society towards environmental degradation of our natural regions and a plea or petition to protect not only our natural resources but to preserve and record the precious history associated with our waterways and ecosystems.

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