Nearly a dozen villages in Sanghar district were inundated and thousands of people displaced as a breach occurred in an embankment of the New Jamrahu Canal on Wednesday. The rupture, which developed around 8:00 am, extended to over 100 feet and could not be plugged till late evening. It was the third such occurrence in the last six days in southern Sindh. It has affected more people and caused extensive damage to crops.
People from nearly 50 villages started evacuating their homes as more breaches reportedly developed in the Nawabshah East Drain (NED) – a waterway which carries saline water and runs parallel to Jamrahu in the area. “Workers and machinery [required for plugging the dyke] have reached the area, but we are waiting for the material,” explained Left Bank Canal Area Water Board director Ghulam Mustafa Ujjar.
The board controls the 226-mile long Nara Canal and its five sub-canals, which irrigate 880,000 hectares of land in Khairpur, Mirpurkhas, Sangahr, Umerkot and Tharparker districts. Ujjar claimed that the breach would be closed by Thursday night.
The water that escaped due to the rupture poured into the nearby NED, causing it to spill over and develop rifts at several points as well. “The canal was carrying between 3,000 to 3,500 cusecs of water, as opposed to its capacity of 2,000 cusecs,” said an elder of a nearby village, Hussain Shah Jilani. He added that villagers had complained to irrigation department officials about the high discharge level at the canal, but to no avail.
Ujjar admitted that discharge was 3,000 cusecs, but added that he wasn’t sure about what led to it. “However, we are trying to address the situation.”
The flooding water affected hundreds of acres of crops as well. Rao Imamuddin, a former union council nazim and a landowner, estimated the loss to be in tens of millions of rupees. “This area is known for cotton production. The [cotton] growers have been devastated.” Vegetable and spices are also grown in the area.
The tense situation also resulted in clashes between irrigation officers and villagers. Residents of Bachal Hingorjo village reportedly assaulted irrigation department officials as the latter tried to divert water from Jamrahu to the Nawabshah East Drain. “Instead of stemming the water flow from Jamrahu, they are attempting to flood the drain,” said Anwar Chanh.
The people also criticised the government for its failure to provide relief to the people who had to evacuate their homes and were in dire need of shelter. Hakim Jhalan, a resident of Garho Jhalan village, said that families did not even have time to gather edible items.
Advisor to chief minister Haleem Adil Shaikh visited the affected areas and directed the district administration to take care of the people, while Sanghar’s district commissioner was unavailable for comment.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 19th, 2012.