SHC dismisses petition by farmers benefiting from illegal water connections

Published: April 21, 2019
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PHOTO: EXPRESS

PHOTO: EXPRESS

HYDERABAD: A matter in Sindh High Court (SHC) over the sharing of irrigation water has laid bare the manner in which water of tail end farmers is stolen in connivance with irrigation officials.

For more than four decades thousands of acres of agricultural land previously fed from a canal of Sukkur barrage were given water from Kotri barrage’s Akram canal as tail end farmers kept suffering from the shortage.

However, on Friday SHC Hyderabad circuit bench dismissed a petition of the farmers who were beneficiaries of the illegal outlets and ordered Sindh Irrigation and Drainage Authority (SIDA) to ensure compliance.

The petitioners, Muhammad Iqbal Kazi and others, maintained that SIDA has been ‘forcefully’ attempting to close Mallah distributary which irrigated their lands in Hyderabad rural.

Their counsel, senior advocate Jhamatmal Jethanand, alleged that SIDA is trying to favour some influential farmers by trying to close the distributary.

The counsels for the respondents, advocates Noorul Haq Qureshi and Syed Muhammad Saulat Rizvi, informed the court that contrary to the allegations, the petitioners in blatant violation continued to irrigate their lands form Akram canal. According to them, the irrigation department had provided temporary relief in 1977 to some farmers whose lands were located in the tail end of Sukkur barrage’s system.

Under the arrangement 1,556 acres were transferred from the command area of Sukkur barrage to Kotri barrage. The temporary sanction was lastly granted up to winter sowing in 1981-82. The subsequent requests for extension of relief were eventually rejected in 1999.

However, the petitioners and their predecessors continued to draw water. “…there are certain illegalities committed by the petitioners themselves in tampering with the module,” observed the bench comprising Justice Muhammad Iqbal Kalhoro and Justice Adnan-ul-Karim Memon.

“That due to theft of water by the petitioners from Akramwah, the tail-enders are disturbed and the water supply to their connection was temporary in nature.”

A meeting of SIDA in March, 2017, took notice that the petitioners were illegally using three-feet-diameter pipeline carrying 200 cusecs water to irrigate 40,000 acres of land. The act was in gross violation as even the temporary relief had sanctioned only 4.5 cusecs water for 1,556 acres land.

In April, 2017, SIDA closed the three-feet pipeline but the petitioners opened it again allegedly without the authority’s approval. Subsequently, SIDA removed 19 illegal pipelines and outlets of the area in question. The petitioners had prayed the court to order SIDA to reopen the closed pipelines. “…we do not see any merit in this petition which is dismissed,” the court ordered.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 21st, 2019.

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