392 pages, 203 b/w photos
Water in the Wilderness aims at highlighting the seamless beauty, culture, flora and fauna of Pakistan. The central message of Water in the Wilderness is that economic growth, with its zeal for modern transformation, may cause the loss of ancient and fragile fusions that form the people and nature of Pakistan – a region at the crossroads of civilization.
Beyond the central plains of the River Indus there are places in Pakistan on which little is known or written. Fragile freshwater areas of lakes, saltpans and rivers are where nature and people live as they have for centuries in unbroken continuum. While modern outlooks fail to recognize their value, these places remain unique hybrids of the East and the West that are hallmarks of Pakistan.
Using unpublished scientific findings, firsthand travel, and English language historical accounts, Water in the Wilderness takes the general reader close to rare destinations. New scientific information commonly relegated to specialists is woven into the text to deepen insight into geography, wildlife and culture of Pakistan. Local attempts to understand and shape the future are brought into focus, through four years of extensive field trips, as entire landscapes and cultural identities are transformed. Imaginatively written text is accompanied by art quality photographs exclusively commissioned to illustrate the storyline. A special feature of Water in the Wilderness, are essays written by scholars from neighbouring countries that highlight the remarkable similarities from across borders.
The chapters are organized around three sections: Makran Coast; Central Deserts; and the Northern Mountains of Pakistan. Each chapter tells its own story around a particular region on which little has been written or known. For example, Hingol in the Makran Coast, that contains Hinglaj, an ancient Hindu nature temple where Hindus and Muslims congregate; Lungh an ox-bow lake in the old bed of the Indus, a favoured staging site for thousands of migratory birds; and the breathtaking Deosai plateau in the northern areas, one of the largest plateaus in the world. An essay from Siberia tells the story of Katerina, an endangered species of stork, whose radio tracker shows how, if she made her safe passage to Lungh, she would not have been shot on the banks of the Indus in the tribal areas.
Section 1: The Coast
1: Chapter One, Jiwani: Freshwaterâs Fringe
2: Chapter Two, Hingol: Temples of Creation
3: Chapter Three, Sonmiani: A Nurturing Existence
Section 2: The Desert
4: Chapter Four, Lungh: Royal Shikaar to Sanctuary
5: Chapter Five, Rangla: The Incidental Marsh-Moorland
6: Chapter Six, Cholistan: Driven by Movement
Section 3: The Mountains
7: Chapter Seven, Deosai: Water in the Wilderness
8: Chapter Eight, Shandur: A Joust with Nature
9: Chapter Nine, Glaciers: The Guardians of Time
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Dr Mehjabeen Abidi-Habib is a Pakistani scholar-practitioner in the field of social ecology and Senior Research Fellow at the Sustainable Development Study Centre of Government College University Lahore, and Visiting Research Associate at the Oxford University Centre for the Environment. She is currently a member of the L'Oreal Group's International Panel of Critical Friends for their global sustainability initiative in Paris. She has international civil service experience with the United Nations in Pakistan, NGO work with the Aga Khan Rural Support Programme, and served on the Board of LEAD International (Leadership for Environment and Development) as a UK Charity Trustee for nine years, culminating as Chair of the Board until June 2011.