Critical decisions ahead as barrages continue to resist

Published: August 10, 2010

Army takes control of Sukkur Barrage as canal breach debated

KARACHI/KHAIRPUR/SUKKUR: The army on Monday evening took control of Sukkur Barrage in a possible effort to save major parts of Sindh from flooding by allowing for the possible breach of a side canal. The move comes after a deadlock in the Sindh government on how to deal with the situation given the uncompromising attitude of some senior members of the cabinet, sources said.

While the Sukkur and Guddu barrages withstand the pressure of the surging floodwaters, officials have warned that a  number of key dykes are cracking under the immense pressure of the flood waters. These dykes include that of Sukkur, which is reported to have already developed cracks. And as fears rise regarding the endurance levels of the Sukkur Barrage – a key structure for downstream and surrounding cities – decisions regarding deliberate breaching have come to the forefront.

Experts said that there is immense pressure on the Sukkur Barrage with 1,184,200 cusecs of water flowing downstream and 1,168,500 upstream on Tuesday evening. The pressure  had amounted to 1,201,000 cusecs till the filing of this report.

If the barrage breaches, all major districts of Sindh, including Sukkur, Khairpur, Nawabshah , Sangar, Dadu and Hyderabad will witness flooding.

The only way to save the barrage is to make a breach in the Ali Wahan canal, said observers. On Sunday night, irrigation authorities were planning to break the embankment of Ali Wahan to reduce pressure on Sukkur Barrage, but were stopped by the area residents.

They said that this act would immediately flood the area that is the constituency of Labour and Manpower Minister Khursheed Shah. Sources say that there’s been a deadlock in the government circles about what to do next as there was no other but to make a cut in the canal “for the greater good of Sindh.”

Shah, however, was resisting all attempts. “The situation is even more complicated because since Shah is a member of our own ruling party and everyone is trying to convince him, but to no avail,” informed one source.

Shah was reportedly told in a high-level meeting in which the chief minister was also involved that this was not the first time that the breach would be made in Ali Wahan. The labour minister was reportedly informed that even in Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s time, in 1976, when Sindh was under a similar threatening situation, a breach was made in Ali Wahan, which saved Sindh from widespread destruction, sources say. However, no argument was able to win the minister over.

Shah reportedly also paraded his people in front of TV cameras to ward off any attempts to make the breach in Ali Wahan.

Eventually, the Pakistan Army, which has now reportedly been given control of the Sukkur Barrage, intervened and reportedly also placed Shah under detention. The chief minister is reportedly trying to calm things down and secure his release. Till last reports, the army had fitted dynamites on walls of the Ali Wahan canal and was expected to detonate them soon.

The areas which are expected to be affected by the cut in Ali Wahan canal are old Rohri, Kandara, Saleh Pat, Khairpur’s Shadi Shaheed, Long Faqir, Sajjo Wah and Chundhko.

This latest drama comes under the backdrop of Irrigation Minister Jam Saifullah Dharejo’s act of making a cut in the Ghouspur. The chief minister reportedly was not informed of this decision, despite Saifullah’s saying that everyone was taken on board over the decision. The breach had caused flooding in Kashmore and there is now total devastation there. The move is being considered as a big blunder by the irrigation department.

The prime minister was asked to decide on two issues, one of which included making a cut in Ghouspur, while the other was concerned with blowing up the Khairpur-Larkana bridge. Gilani had reportedly asked the chief minister to decide on the Ghaus Pur cut, while instructions were given not to touch the Khairpur-Larkana Bridge unless the situation worsens.

It is also worth mentioning that Pir Pagara’s area in Khairpur’s Keengri has also been evacuated. However, people from surrounding areas have said that Pagara and his sons have constructed protection walls to protect their lands. However, irrigation officials believe that if the flood strikes then, these ‘bunds’ or walls will serve no purpose.

More than 75 per cent of Kachcha Bunder residents in Sukkur moved to safer places on Monday after floodwaters began escaping through the cracks of a dyke wall, inundating the surrounding area.

Several cracks appeared earlier on the protective wall of the dyke which was unable to sustain the pressure of the raging torrents.

Some families have also set up makeshift houses outside the bunder’s wall.

On early Monday morning, the gates of all seven off-taking canals were opened to release the water. Floods also caused cracks in the Kachcha Kharif Bund, which is being repaired by the locals.

The Begari Sindh Feeder developed 10 breaches at different points, flooding more than 50 villages. Residents of Karampur, Ghouspur, Dari, Tangwani, Badani and other places have started evacuating the areas while water from the Begari Sindh Feeder was heading towards Shikarpur and Garhi Tegho towns.

Floodwater inundated the Indus Highway between Rajanpur and Shikarpur and Guddu and Sadiqabad, while Guddu Barrage was closed for heavy traffic. The railway track between Shikarpur and Rajanpur was also submerged.

Residents of Guddu Colony have been told to move to safer places, while army has been deployed at the Guddu Thermal Power Station.

Emotionally charged people pelted the vehicle of labour and manpower minister with stones on Monday when he came to Bunder Wall to assess the damage that gushing waters had caused to the structure.

On Sunday, some cracks had developed in Bunder Wall near water works, which were taken care of, but on Monday night water started escaping from the wall near an under-construction residential plaza.

Hundreds of people from various localities had reached the spot and were busy piling up sandbags alongside the wall. People were furious because no government officials had shown up by that time.

As soon as Khursheed Shah reached the spot, people started pelting his vehicle with stones. The minister, however, remained unhurt and quickly eased into the vehicle and was driven away.

Irrigation officials later also reached the site and joined with the area people in repairing the cracks.

Meanwhile, according to a United Nations’ official on Monday, around 13.8 million people have been affected the current floods in the country making the scale of the disaster worse than the devastating 2004 tsunami.

“This disaster is worse than the tsunami, the 2005 Pakistan earthquake and the Haiti earthquake,” commented Maurizio Giuliano, a spokesperson for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA).

“It is bigger because in the 2005 Pakistan earthquake, more than three million were affected, while in the tsunami some five million people were affected and the Haiti earthquake affected some three million,” he said. Giuliano called on relief operations “to be massively scaled up”.

About 220,000 people perished in the 2004 tsunami across Asia, while the United Nations has estimated the death toll from the Pakistan floods at 1,600. (With additional reporting from Sarfaraz Memon and agencies.)

Published in The Express Tribune, August 10th, 2010.

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Reader Comments (7)

  • Aug 10, 2010 - 10:27AM

    piyaray khurshid shah! You have pushed J.Leghari to the point that he opted to follow the path of Nisar Ali and Shehbaz Sharif to meet Gen.Kiyani. Now you have opted to be under detention.What next? mairay Aziz Hamwatnou! it is your duty to salute Pak Army till the next break up of the country.Recommend

  • Tariq Baig
    Aug 10, 2010 - 11:18AM

    Look what politicians has left for use to suffer only. They dont eave have any plan. They are only being elected on fake degrees to fill up their foreign bank accounts. They dont even have machinery to control this disaster. They even resisted Dams which has caused this major trouble and torture of load shading with depriving of the dams.Recommend

  • Copper
    Aug 10, 2010 - 2:39PM

    More we know about Khurshid Shah, through his speeches and through his action, more it becomes clear that he can do anything for his vested interest, no matter how much damage it causes to country. Keep him detained! Recommend

  • z ali
    Aug 10, 2010 - 3:27PM

    God Bless Pakistan . what will be next………i am affraid that god has saved the major cities of Pakistan , i dont know why…….but i am affraid…plz Astaghfaar karo dil say.. other wise nothing will be left.Recommend

  • Fayyaz Ahmed Janjua
    Aug 10, 2010 - 3:50PM

    Mere Ghar Ko Aag Lag Rahi, Ghar Ke Charagh Se!!!

    Yes the situation is exactly the same as above. In Sukkur city the public is still there at bunder road on help yourself basis trying to stop the seepages with all hopes and disappointments that no-one from Govt Higher ups is going to back them except Army, Edhi, NGOs etc.
    Mr. Shah who is a native of this great city, is only trying to save his lands approx 12000 acres where his crop is ready? This is what his mission, vision and public services??

    How character-less?

    This is a really tough time for flood victims here and for those who are looking waters coming above their homes and they are on the roads with all their families and trying to survive in such catastrophic situation with only hope of Allah almighty, the Karta-Dharta of this city are absent yet waiting for damages to happen so that they can get the HUGE AMOUNTS against such damages in the name of rescue and relief.

    I am unable to reach any conclusion, when your people who elected you with best hopes, are looking for your need, you are only targeting to safeguard your assessts, belongings etc. Recommend

  • Shaukat Ali Eshai
    Aug 13, 2010 - 8:06PM

    Some one should make sure the real affecties get the compensation and
    not these big time landlords and so called polititions.It is only the
    poor people who are suffering,so the major aid should be ditributed among the poor first.It is the general public who is collecting funds
    for the flood affected people,I have yet to see these so called big time polititions collecting funds.Shame on these polititions,I have seen street beggars donating for relief funds.I hope general public will think twice before electing these fake degree holders in the next
    election. Recommend

  • N Saeed
    Aug 16, 2010 - 6:36PM

    I fully endorse the view points of Mr. Fayyaz Ahmed and Mr. Shaukat Ali. Our present leader Mafia has let us down at each and every opportunity, but alas, they will be elected again against few hundred rupees and few fake or against the merit promises of job or benefit etc. We must ask ALLAH’s forgiveness and mend our ways ASAP. Recommend

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