SWAT: Despite the passage of nearly two years, farmers in Swat are struggling to recover from the havoc wrecked by the floods in 2010. The government, however, seems to have turned a blind eye towards their miseries.
The floods swept away vast tracts of agricultural land and several irrigation channels, depriving thousands of farmers across the valley of their livelihoods.
Among the destroyed villages was Parrai, where nearly 3,500 families are awaiting a miracle to rehabilitate their irrigation channels.
With more than 20,000 acres of agriculture land, the village is located eight kilometres away from Barikot across the Swat River and is known for its high quality rice, onions and tomatoes.
“We had a network of irrigation channels for our lands but it was completely washed away by the floods and has not been restored till now,” Syed Iqbal, a local farmer of the village said while talking to The Express Tribune.
“As we had no other option, we reconstructed one of the channels on a self-help basis, enabling 20 per cent of our land to be cultivated,” he explained.
The rice cultivated in Parrai is highly popular among local people, while outsiders would often come to Swat and develop contacts with locals to enjoy it.
“Ever since the floods took their toll on Swat’s agriculture, production is zero, due to which farmers have been forced to leave their profession and work as labourers,” said Yousaf Nawab, a resident of the village.
In addition to farm produce, the village is also well-known for its fish. “People from surrounding areas would come here for a picnic and catch up to 10 kilogrammes of Dewey (a small black fish) from irrigation channels,” said a student Zahin Khan.
According to a farmer and social activist Saleem Khan, people have repeatedly requested the elected representatives to restore the channels but they are still waiting for from the government.
“They always give verbal assurances. The farmers have lost their crops and land worth millions of rupees and the government is watching like a silent spectator.”
Though famers are doing everything on their own, they need financial support and technical assistance from the government to rebuild their livelihoods.
According to them, even marginal support such as provision of seeds and fertilizer can make a big difference to their lives.
When MPA Waqar Khan was contacted for his comments, his assistant said that the work on the main irrigation channel is underway and would soon be completed.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 27th, 2012.