Crop damage: Rains wreak havoc in Sindh

Crops on hundreds of thousands of acres destroyed.

Z Ali August 17, 2011


The government is yet to complete its assessment of losses suffered by the agriculture sector in Sindh due to the monsoon rains but officials estimate devastation of around 140,000 acres in Mirpurkhas district alone. According to the official estimates, crops are sown over 205,000 acres in Mirpurkhas.

“Up to 80 percent of the cotton crop standing over 40,200 acres has been washed away by the rains,” District Agriculture Officer, Mirpurkhas, Yar Muhammad Khaskheli told newsmen on Wednesday.

Heavy monsoon rains caused flash-floods in Umerkot, Tharparkar, Sanghar, Mirpurkhas, Tando Muhammad Khan and Badin with the provincial government declaring four of them as calamity hit districts.

DCO Mirpurkhas Ghulam Hussain Memon told the local media that nearly 22,000 people have been provided shelter in the relief camps. The rains affected 32 union councils with 24 of them officially declared as calamity hit. According to the DCO, around 200,000 people have been affected by the rains.

Abdul Majeed Nizamani, president Sindh Abadgar Board believes that cotton crop sowed over about 1.2 million acres in Tando Muhammad Khan, Badin, Tando Allahyar, Mirpurkhas and Sanghar districts has been damaged or destroyed. “The price of per acre yield of cotton crop is at least Rs73,000 according to the estimates of Agriculture Research Department.”

Cotton, which need less than half feet of water for cultivation, cannot withstand two to four feet water for several days as the plant wilts for want of oxygen.

Besides cotton, other crops like paddy, chillies, sugarcane and vegetables have also suffered badly. “Nearly 90 percent of chilli crop cultivated over 17,500 acres, 25 percent of sugarcane crop sown at around 46,600 acres and 90 percent of 40,800 acres of vegetables have been destroyed,” says Yar Muhammad Khaskheli, the district agriculture officer.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 18th, 2011.

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He said that in past years these groups collected Zakat and Fitra in the last week of Ramazan. “But this year, they came in the first week of Ramazan,” he said.

“The worst part is that all these groups have their own targets of bhatta collection. Eventually, traders have to help them meet their targets by paying more,” he said.

Representatives of traders’ associations are convinced that the worst affected markets are in the old city areas like Kharadar, Khajoor Market, Sarafa Bazaar and cloth and grain markets.

These congested areas have the biggest wholesale markets in Pakistan where traders from all over the country come to buy imported and locally manufactured wholesale goods.

Traders say that over 80 per cent of the total bhatta collected in Karachi comes from these centres.

In recent years, Karachi witnessed one of its worst political and ethnic rifts. More than 300 people were killed in July because of violence in the country’s main commercial hub.

“Interestingly, such rifts don’t exist in bhatta-seeking groups,” a trader said, adding that these mafia groups had people from all ethnicities living in Karachi.

“If anyone wants to learn brotherhood and ethnic partnership, he should learn it from this mafia,” he said. “It has people from Urdu-speaking, Pashtu, Sindhi, Baloch and Punjabi communities. Yet they work so efficiently that you cannot believe your eyes.”

However, these groups are not limited to old congested business centres. According to traders, these bhatta groups have now extended their influence in posh areas as well. They had little influence there two years ago, they said.

According to an eyewitness account, a couple of armed young men barged into a superstore in Defence Housing Authority (DHA) Phase 5 recently and took away money from the owner. It was later learned that the amount they snatched was in line with the ‘slips’ which they had distributed a few days ago in the area.

He added that the young men fled the scene with ease despite the fact that a police mobile was standing guard right in front of the store.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 18th, 2011.

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