Post-flood changes: Fines and punishment increased for obstructing waterways

Anyone found encroaching on watercourses will be prosecuted a week after law passed.


Our Correspondent February 29, 2012

KARACHI: After a long debate on the encroachment on Sindh’s water outlets, the house of elected representatives passed a bill into law enhancing punishment and fines. Squatters tend to build over rivers, obstructing the flow that leads to flooding.

But now the Sindh Irrigation (Amendment) Bill 2011 has made changes to the 1879 law, extending punishment to 10 years with a fine of one million rupees. Anyone found encroaching on government land a week after this law comes into being will be prosecuted if they don’t leave.

Sindh Law and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ayaz Soomro explained that because of the heavy rains in 2011 severe damage was caused as waterways were clogged. In his brief speech, Soomro said that some influential people had encroached on the water courses and built high-rises and even villages.

After this law is passed, all natural water courses meant to divert flood or rainwater belong to the government.

The lawmakers debated these changes for about one hour.  Some MPAs of the ruling party appreciated the president’s orders for the issue to be tackled. A few of them emphasised that the government must implement the law in letter and spirit. “What can you do when an MPA or minister is involved,” asked Jam Tamachi Unar, who runs the Sindh government accounts watchdog. “Can our bureaucrats (always quick to appease ministers) take action against the menace?”

MPA Dr Sikanar Mandhro pointed out that aside from political bigwigs even the government itself has set up schools and hospitals on waterways.

According to MPA Sassui Palijo, some people had erected private embankments or bunds inside the banks of the River Indus, which wreaked havoc in the 2010 floods. While they had started to remove them they needed help and commitment to completely get rid of them. MPAs Shazia Marri, Sadiq Memon, Humera Alwani, Nasarullah Baloch of the PPP and Heer Ismali Soho of the MQM and Nusrat Seher Abbasi of the PML-F appreciated the bill.

Killings of Pakistanis in US

During the Sindh Assembly session, Imran Zafar Leghari of the PPP raised the murder of two members of a Sindhi family in Houston, US.

On his point of order, Leghari who belongs to Khairpur Nathan Shah, said that a US-based Pakistani-American family came under attack about three days back. Sardar alias Lalu Shaikh and his daughter were killed when some people fired at the family and escaped, leaving the family in a pool of blood. “That family belongs to my hometown,” he said. “This is a third incident of the same nature. But the US administration is not taking it seriously. They have even refused to hand over the bodies.” The couple had married after falling in love and Sardar’s Canadian wife was also injured in the attack.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 1st, 2012.

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