Locals in Bahawalpur have protested against the government regarding their mishandling of a development project that has led to several people being injured and the death of one resident over the past four years. They said development scheme led to the death of a resident last year and several school children had fallen into sewerage ponds and been severely injured as a result of the delays and stalling in the project.
“This project has caused nothing but problems. Dozens of people have been injured because of the poor construction and crops have been destroyed. There is no clean drinking water and now the project has been abandoned halfway,” said a Basti Saamlan resident Hafeez. Residents of 150 houses in Basti Saamlan, Mauza Qadir Bux Channar protested in the Union Council No15, nearly 10 kilometers from Bahawalpur on Saturday.
According to tehsil municipal administration (TMA) officials, a pipeline project was started in the district nearly four years ago. The project was known as the Mega Sewerage Project and had been initiated to dispose sewerage water in the city. However, after work started on the project several village streets were dug up and old sewerage lines were damaged. “They did not complete the project and it has led to the existing infrastructure being destroyed. Now we have a damaged sewerage system and dug up roads,” said TMA official Adil Nauman. Locals protested that various plots of land in their villages were filled with stagnant sewerage water and this had caused several accidents.
The residents told The Express Tribune that two persons riding on a motorcycle fell in a roadside pond of stagnant water a year back. “One of them died and the other was seriously injured. Before that five children reportedly fell into pools of stagnant water.
The consequences of this project have included the spread of disease, houses collapsing and lots of hurdles with regards to drinking water,” said Nauman.
Due to the blockage of sewerage lines, polluted water has mixed with drinking water. “There are several villages that are receiving sewer water in taps. It doesn’t matter how many times we boil the water it is not drinkable so we have to fetch water from a different village,” said Hafeez. A resident, rickshaw driver Mohammad Ayub, said that his three-year-old daughter Sadia fell in a pond of sewerage and she was rescued after a long struggle a few months ago.
Ayub and many of his poor neighbours have already suffered serious damage to their homes because of the project. “When the workers began digging up the roads it ruined the foundations of several homes nearby and they didn’t compensate us. Last month, the roof of my house caved in and my daughter was injured because she was caught under the rubble,” Ayub said. The water is felling the walls of many of our houses. “I constructed this house after a long struggle and put my life savings into the place but now it has been flooded several times” Ayub said.
Another resident, Akhtar Khan said the sewer water had flooded his house and he feared it could collapse. “Things will get much worse during the monsoons because the streets will flood with sewer water,” he said. Khan said that cultivated crops of about 10 acres were destroyed by the overflowing water last years. The water is also a breeding ground for mosquitoes and people are suffering from malaria.
The project was initially meant for treatment of sewerage water in Bahawalpur and it was started with at a cost of Rs60m.
District Coordination Officer (DCO) Dr Naeem Rauf refused to comment on the situation. Basti Saamlan residents have appealed the Chief Minister Shabaz Sharief, Chief Secretary Punjab, MNAs, MPAs and officials to take urgent notice of the situation.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 22nd, 2011.