The situation in the Cholistan desert has become very complex, including pressure on pastoral lands, commercialization of the desert, faulty government policies, marketing issues and poor health cover. Socio-economic and environmental changes make pastoralism tricky throughout the world and Cholistan is one of the worst affected areas. The camel is most vulnerable to the effects of these changes.
A new move in the region to bring more land under cultivation for cotton production is apparently very eye-catching, but there are many side effects of this practice. Land grabbing is one of the important issues, as the grazing lands are decreasing with the intensity of grabbing. The two deserts (Thal and Cholistan) are the homelands of very rich cultures, wide biodiversity of flora and fauna and beautiful landscapes. As FAO (1992) stresses, the in situ conservation of flora and fauna genetic resources is an essential tool for food security in the near future. The flora genetic resources can also be used for human and animal health care in the future. The cultivation of land for cotton is a threat to those valuable genetic resources.
Part of the Thal desert has already been brought under cultivation by canal irrigation from the river Indus and the land was allotted in majority of cases to the influential people in the country. The Brela camel herders and other livestock keepers of Thal have been excluded and never compensated for their losses. The small ruminant and cattle breeders have already left the occupation of livestock husbandry but like in other parts of the world, the camel herders adapted a new way by moving long routes with their camels and traveling up to the desert of Cholistan. The land grabbing pushes the livestock deep into the desert; the situation puts more pressure on the desert rangelands of the region.
Increasing the designated area for cereal production and decreasing the area for livestock production is not wise. Cereals need high inputs and irrigation and are therefore unsustainable under desert conditions Cereal production favors the pockets of rich people but does not enhance food security.
Along with the squeezing of grazing lands, together with commercial pressure, water scarcity is a tremendous problem for the pastoral people. During drought periods, the tobas dry up and no water is available. This provokes the Marrecha pastoralists to migrate to irrigated areas, resulting in cultural chaos and conflicts with agricultural farmers.
Camel health is another problem for the pastoralists. Trypanosomosis (surra) and mange are the most common diseases of camels. The veterinary cover provided by the government in the region is quite poor and the drugs available for treatment are very expensive in the nearby markets. The unavailability of veterinary attention and medicines increases camel morbidity and mortality. There is also lack of understanding and confidence between veterinarians and local pastoral people. The veterinarians usually are from the urban areas and consider the pastoral people as lower in position. The pastoral people do not trust the veterinarians and think their way of treatment is fake. Therefore the pastoralists mostly rely on indigenous treatments and ethnoveterinary medicine.
When formulating development projects, the government always nullifies the role of the livestock keepers and back short cut methods, such as cereal cultivation, land allocation and crossbreeding the valuable indigenous animal genetic resources with exotic breeds. This strategy is devastating, and is it clearly not possible to reach the Millennium Development goals of the UN in the Cholistan region, if small stockers are deprived of their livestock.