SUKKUR: As floods wreak havoc across the country, people in Sukkur defy fear and government warnings to throng the river banks to catch the spectacle of the River Indus in all its raging glory.
Thousands of excited children, men and women were crowding Sukkur Barrage, a public park Lab-e-Mehran that was cordoned off by the authorities and the entire bund wall to see the river that has not been this powerful for several years now.
The district administration has imposed section 144, banning entry to the park and the barrage but police and Rangers have failed to stem the flow of public into the area.
Especially eager were teenagers and small children, who could be seen leaning against the wall, and talking about the novelty of the experience.
Some of the more exuberant youths were even diving into the water, something that could prove fatal in the current conditions.
Water levels in the barrage are hitting a record high. “I have never seen this before,” said 10-year-old Sania Shaikh. “I had always heard from my grandfather that the River Indus used to carry a lot more water in his time. I am so happy to see the river this high.”
Elderly Anisa Khatoon was also very excited, “It feels as if the River Indus has come alive again today,” she said.
“We’re going to enjoy both the rain and the river,” a group of young people told The Express Tribune. “The weather has cooled, the river is raging, what else do we need to have some fun?”
Teenaged Mohsin, however, expressed more than excitement, because he felt that the river was swelling too fast and could wash everything away.
It rained in Sukkur and surrounding areas throughout Tuesday night and Wednesday but this did not deter the picnickers who flocked from around the city.
And this meant good business for the men selling biryani, ice cream and popcorn.
The only people who seemed a bit put off were the police and Rangers deployed at the barrage and Lab-e-Mehran. We can stop a group of people from coming here, they said, but who can stop a crowd of thousands?
Sukkur fears waters will rise above barrage
The water has never come as high as it stands these days. Residents fear that very soon the level will cross over the road built on the barrage and suspend traffic.
Rescue work and preparations for the floods soaring down from the Punjab have also been affected by the rain that continued all day.
Meanwhile, residents of the kachcha area are unwilling to move to relief camps as they are unsure their needs will be met there.
“There are at least 4,000 houses located here. We can’t all just go and fit into one school,” said Akhtar Ali, one of the residents of the kachcha area in Sukkur.
Mai Bakht Ali has given up hope on the government. “It has been 50 years and the government has never helped us,” she claimed.
“They have never supported us financially so why should we listen to them when they want us to leave our homes?”
The authorities have so far only managed to relocate 300 of the 10,000 families residing in the riverain area, said Ahmed, adding that most families were choosing to move into their relatives.
Some residents are afraid that the government will not give them back their land once the floods are over. They believe that high-rise buildings will be built at the river’s edge and they will become homeless if they leave now.
Most men, living at the edge of the river, earn a living from fishing or growing vegetables on the riverbed while the women are employed as domestic help. Business had become slow since water levels began to rise and since relocating means added expenses, they have chosen not to.
As the families have been living in this area for almost 40 years they believe that they can stand the floods.
They have taken no precautions on their own and feel that if the government really cares then it should come visit them.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 5th, 2010.
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