What flood preparations?
Following predictions of heavy monsoon and subsequent flooding, the Sindh government has started planning for early recovery and relief by declaring emergency in nine sensitive districts. Relief camps are being set up, while ministers and officials concerned stated that “there is no prediction of floods; we have made all arrangements to mitigate the rain emergency”.
Sindh has faced floods for the last two years amidst the same statements and promises made by responsible people of the government. Following these promises, the people of Sindh experienced much devastation.
Every minister seems to have memorised the following statement: ‘for the last 10 years, dictators have not worked to strengthen the irrigation infrastructure. Funds were not properly utilised and that is why the irrigation system in Sindh is about to collapse. Don’t worry, this democratic government is working to restore the system to its original form. No one should cast doubt on the government’s intentions or efforts’. However, millions of rupees have been misappropriated in the last two spells of floods and dozens of inquiries are under way against district-level officials involved in relief, rescue and rehabilitation operations.
One wonders why relief department officials sent a bill of Rs20 million for the rations of three to four hundred people, who lived in the camps for just four days following a breach in Rohri Canal in Matiari district. Meanwhile, seeds and fertilisers worth Rs5 million were distributed among landlords in Jacobabad, Shikarpur, Kamber Shahdadkot and Sukkur districts, who were never victims of the floods. Even after receiving Rs12 billion during this outgoing financial year, the irrigation ministry has not been able to remove the encroachment on the waterways, which was stated to be the main reason for last year’s flood on the left bank of the Indus River.
I still recall the plight of a disabled woman who protested for two months in front of the Jacobabad press club for not receiving compensation for her damaged house before she died due to dehydration. However, the government still says, ‘all is well’.
Declaring emergency, taking notice of everything and forming committees is not the solution to our problems. There is great need for a pragmatic approach rather than for statements being issued from air-conditioned drawing rooms.
Read more by Hafeez here.