The unrelenting ferocity of the monsoon rains, which have left five districts calamity-hit and seventeen struggling, have compelled the headstrong provincial government to capitulate and seek UN help to cope with the disaster.
“We will request the federal government to approach the UN and other international agencies for support in handling relief measures in the rain-affected parts of the province,” said Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah on Sunday in Tando Allahyar district.
At a press conference at DCO House, Shah put the blame on the federal government for opposing the province’s demand for foreign help. “Now they have agreed to relay the request,” he added.
The chief minister announced Rs20 million in grants and asked people to register for Watan Cards to receive the Rs20,000 endowment. “We have waived the dhal, water cess and other taxes in the rain-affected districts to help the agriculturists,” he said, acknowledging that the rains have dealt a severe blow to farmers who were trying to recover after the floods last year. “We have put the assessment of losses to lives, property, livestock and crops on the fast track,” Shah assured.
Tando Allahyar is among the districts declared disaster-hit by the provincial government as 160,000 of its people have been affected. More than 25,000 of them are living in 89 relief camps set up in Tando Allahyar, Jhudo Marri and Chambarh tehsils.
According to DCO Dr Shafqat Hussain Abbasi, the rains completely destroyed 3,501 houses and partially damaged another 17,435. Nearly 117 km of roads were also washed away. “According to initial surveys, 73,081 acres of crops have been ruined of the total of 369,695 acres sown in the district,” he added.
Earlier on, the DCO told The Express Tribune that Tando Allahyar needs a weekly supply of at least 16,000 ration bags to feed the displaced. The National Disaster Management Authority had pledged to supply 10,000 ration bags and 10,000 tents by August 25. “Although the date has passed, we have yet to receive any consignment from the NDMA,” complained the DCO, adding that he has only 800 tents for tens of thousands of people.
Two to three feet of rainwater has accumulated in streets, houses and shops in the urban localities of Unar Para, Qila, Ibrahim Colony and Chambarh road while the police headquarters, civil court and the civil hospital are also submerged.
Sanghar seeks help
People have also been seeking government assistance in Sanghar, the home of Pakistan Muslim League-Functional’s Pir Pagara. The cotton-growing hub had sown 334,828 acres of the crop before the rains started pounding the district last week.
Representatives of local farmers claim colossal destruction to their crops. “The government should also declare Sanghar calamity-hit in view of the magnitude of destruction to its agriculture,” demanded comrade Hassan Askari, the general secretary of the Sindh Small Growers Association. “With rains continuing unabated for the last five days, there is very little chance of survival for the cotton crop which can hardly withstand excess water for three to four days,” he told The Express Tribune. The Sindh government had announced Nawabshah, Badin, Tando Allahyar, Tando Muhammad Khan and Badin districts as calamity hit on Saturday.
Askari said that 110 cotton ginning factories, the largest in any district of Sindh, are shut as the farmers are being offered Rs1,600 to Rs1,800 per maund by the middlemen for a crop which they were selling at up to Rs2,800 before the rain. “To crown it all, the first cotton picking was hardly half way through when it rained.”
The Sindh Irrigation and Drainage Authority claims that none of its three canals which flow in the district have overflown except for breaches in saline water drains which have been filled with excess water drained from agricultural fields.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 5th, 2011.