The water’s moving, but not these people


Shahzad Jillani August 01, 2010

KARACHI: Villagers in Sukkur and Khairpur districts have refused to move in to camps set up by the administration as flooding is expected in these two districts.

“It is expected that flooding is likely to cause damage three Khairpur tehsils,” said Zahoor Solangi, from Kotpul, tehsil Kingri. “The condition of the canals is worrying as otherwise [when the water is at normal levels] breaches develop.” He felt that the irrigation department should have realised this earlier.

A villager from Faiz Mohammad Bindo, Yaqoob Narejo, told The Express Tribune that the entire village was on high alert but people were just not willing to leave their homes and livestock. “Where would we go because the administration hasn’t given us shelter?” he said. “What is going to happen to our livestock? We fear the cattle will not survive the flood.”

The main canals from Sukkur connecting to Khairpur’s tehsils Kingri, Khairpur and Gambat are at more risk. The canals running as a main artery to agricutural land in these areas are Faiz Wah, Rohri Canal, Abul Wah and Mir Wah. Nara canal is closed these days but if the water flow increases there would be major destruction. “There have been several breaches in the Nara canal in the last six months,” revealed Mohammad Ibrahim Katohar. “Now if the irrigation department plans to open it [to ease divert the floodwaters] then no one will survive.”

Shaukat Seelro of Waris Gambhir village in union council Meher Veesar was wondering why nothing had been done to evacuate people. According to him, several villages, from Sukkur to Shal Dhani, Piryalo in Khairpur and connecting the two rivers in the remote areas of Khairpur, were at risk. Part of his worry was based on the fact that the Faiz Wah bank had just developed a breach recently. The irrigation engineer had been informed but only temporary measures were taken. “If this is the situation of the banks, then only God can help us,” he said. “People here were not bothered by the floods. They were sitting at the hotels chatting with each other.”

This fear is echoed by the experts. One irrigation contractor told The Express Tribune that the condition of the canals was so bad that in a single month there had been two major breaches, one of them in Thari Mir Wah. He held elected representatives and government functionaries responsible as they had been eliminating trees from the banks of the canals. “This is also going to be one big factor if the canals overflow because trees provide protection,” he said. He claimed that 300,000 cusecs had passed on Sunday alone and Sukkur, Khairpur and Naushero Feroze will be badly hit.

Growers in Gambat are nervous too. “I have personally requested villagers and people from my contituency to move to safer areas and cooperate with the administration,” said MPA Naeem Kharal from Gambat. “The response I received was negative as people complained that the entire village cannot be accomodated in one governement school building with four rooms.”

Even he pointed out a recent breach in the Abul Wah canal for which hundreds of villagers had to be evacuated. The administration wasn’t able to manage then. “Now we are talking about hundred and thousands of people,” he said.

For its part, the administration has declared four bunds or gateways sensitive - Razi Dero, Ripri, Pulra Jageer and Fareedabad.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 2nd, 2010.

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