KARACHI: Two years of flooding cost Sindh more than Rs12.7 million, but the government is now warning that the upcoming monsoon may cause even more devastation.
The chief minister’s adviser on relief affairs, Haleem Adil Shaikh, said this during a press conference on Friday.
“We have national and international weather reports which predict a big catastrophe in the upcoming monsoon,” he said. “Not only should the government but other stakeholders also accelerate their efforts to deal with the situation.” Around 29 million people in the country could be affected, he warned.
Shaikh said that the people living on the left and right banks of the Indus River were still in trauma. Thousands of families lost all of their belongings, crops, livestock, infrastructure and family members in 2010 and 2011 floods.
Encroachment on natural waterways (Dhora) and in the Indus River, where people have built private dykes, are a big problem for the Sindh government. “These Dhoras were built to drain the water but the encroachments caused a lot of devastation in southern Sindh last year.”
He added that his department had begun to consult the provincial disaster management authority to speed up the preparation of a contingency plan for the districts. “The government is planning to start workshops at the grass root levels to enhance capacity building for all the stakeholders including volunteers, district-level officials and NGO representatives.”
The Sindh Assembly already passed a law in March this year to remove encroachments from dhoras but awaits the approval of the government.
However, Sheikh repeated what other leaders had said before that the encroached land will be evacuated within seven days after the law becomes applicable. Anyone found involved will be fined Rs1 million and will also face imprisonment for 10 years. “It will be a non-bailable offence.”
Talking about the reasons which kept the law from being implemented, the irrigation minister, Jam Saifullah Dharejo, seemed a bit dejected as he talked to The Express Tribune. “What can we do in a situation when the government takes action and the court gives stay orders to the encroachers?” he said. “However, we have started taking action and have spent more than a billion rupees this year to improve the drainage system.”
The minister accepted the fact that some influential people had occupied the drains and had set up buildings and towns. He said that the government was pondering on how to go about resolving the matter. “How is it possible for us to demolish the entire Jhuddo town in Mirpurkhas district which was built on a drain?”
Meanwhile, Sheikh seemed to be worried about the response of international donors after the floods in 2011 and requested the federal government to release the Rs20,000 promised to the flood survivors through their Watan/Pakistan cards.
Talking about the breach which occurred in the Rohri canal, he said that about 11,200 people had been displaced from 30 villages which were inundated. However, the breach had been plugged within 24 hours.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 19th, 2012.