A team of researchers have completed a survey on Sindh’s water problems. The study was conducted by consultants of the World Bank-funded Water Sector Improvement Project. It is the first part of a four-phase regional plan, targeting areas on the left bank of the river Indus, the delta and the coastal belt from Ghotki district to the Rann of Kutch.
“You have a growing population and depleting resources,” said Dragica Veselinovic, an Australian sociologist and one of the researchers. “People need quick fixes, which are not possible. Education can help resolve these problems.” She informed The Express Tribune that her team was giving a road map of solutions to the government with which the actual implementation rests. However, she pointed out that it is socio-political factors that would enable remedies to be effective rather than technical solutions.
The researchers spent nine months consulting all stakeholders to identify problems. The team’s environmental expert, Dr Saleh Soomro, said that they surveyed over 200 areas and villages in the left bank and consulted nearly 55,000 people.
The researchers linked high population growth, diminishing livestock, a lack of alternate employment, non-farming skills and inadequate credit to rural communities with the problem of water management. They also associated poor nutrition, health and hygiene, discrimination in property rights, a marginal role in the development process and economic activities of women, with the issue. Deforestation of riverine and inland forests, the destruction of wetlands and lakes, the disappearance of the native flora and fauna, untreated toxic, industrial and municipal effluent, mangrove degradation, desertification and the lack of awareness were identified as the primary environment-related concerns.
The Left Bank Outfall Drainage project topped the list of problems with the drainage networks on the left bank of the Indus. People of Badin and Thatta complained of losing fertile land, a change in the cropping pattern and destruction of forests, wetlands and lakes. However, the project has support in Nawabshah and Sanghar, where it has helped reduce soil salinity, lower the sub-soil water level and increase agricultural production.
Water logging, salinity, toxic effluent, canal escapes, intrusion of saline underground water into fresh water, stagnant water hazards and breaches during floods were identified as other important drainage issues. The technical problems that were identified in the study included weak institutions, poor accountability systems, an inadequate monitoring mechanism, a lack of coordination between agencies, inadequate resources, a deficient flood-warning system, poor evacuation plans, a shortfall in the supply of irrigation water and water theft. Agricultural worries consisted of a lack of seeds and fertiliser, harvest losses, loan sharks and a lack of awareness of farming practices. Moreover, the respondents of the survey expressed scepticism in their feedback on the government’s measures for the disposal of flood and storm water.
Delayed flood mitigation, unexpected breaches, weak embankments, absence of consultation with vulnerable communities and stagnant water hazards were pinpointed.
Communities also complained about the exclusion of women and landless and poor people from the consultation process.
Solutions to all these problems would be identified in consultation with local communities and other stakeholders in the second phase, which is yet to start. After the completion of the last phase, the team will hand over its recommendations.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 14th, 2011.