MUZAFFARGARH: The Muzaffargarh district’s current watery woes may be traced back to a discord between the army and the district administration on the question if a canal should be breached to alter the course of floodwaters.
The district’s 75 per cent population is left counting the cost of that disagreement which may have precipitated the disaster it finds itself coping with, with its 0.6 million acres of cropland under water.
The district administration had shot down the army’s suggestion to breach the Maggusi Canal in order to give course to floodwaters towards the River Indus.
The district administration had asked the army to focus on rescue and relief while it was the irrigation department’s job to deal with the floodwaters and the breach of embankments.
Major Shahbaz, in-charge of the rescue effort in the district, confirmed this, saying that had the district administration heeded the army’s advice in the first week of August, the entire district would not have been inundated.
On August 2, the left Bund of Taunsa Barrage collapsed because of intense pressure and massive flow of water in the Indus River. He said that floodwaters roared their way into the Taunsa Punjnad (TP) link canal and breached it because of a spillover of floodwaters above its capacity.
He said the torrent from the TP link canal was drained into Muzaffargarh canal which also could not sustain the pressure of a water surge. As a result it breached at many points. At that stage, he said, the army asked the district administration to crack open the Maggusi Canal to divert the floodwaters towards the Indus River. The district administration, however, ignored the suggestion. He said that if the Maggasi Canal had been breached, the whole area would have been saved.
He said that the bursting of TP and Muzaffargarh canals and the bunds not only completely inundated Kot Addu, Daira Din Panah, Mehmoood Kot and Qasba Gujrat but also wreaked havoc in Rohilanwali, Shaher Sultan, and Shahjamal.
The civil functionaries have a different take on the issue, though. The superintendent engineer of irrigation department Chaudhry Zafar told The Express Tribune that army’s proposals to breach the Maggasi Canal was not feasible because the canal was located upstream while the floodwater was flowing at lower level. He said that the irrigation department later breached the canal from its downsides.
A high-profile source, which is close to Brigadier Abid Saeed who is supervising relief activities in the district, said the army again asked the civil administration that since floodwater was flowing towards the district’s south and inundating the settled areas, it should be given free way but that proposal was also disregarded.
He said that the commander had asked for all the bunds of Rohilanwali, Shahjamal, Shaher Sultan and Jatoi to be demolished to give way to floodwaters to go into the Chanab but the district administration made plans which resulted in the inundation of these areas.
He said that according to the district plan, first inundate the first city which is located on the way of floodwaters and breach the bund of other city. He said that if the district administration would breach all the bunds which are on the way then floodwaters might pass through the course which might partially affect the settled areas.
Irrigation superintendent engineer Chaudhry Khalid said the department and the district administration had been facing stiff resistance from the local people who made bunds on the way in order to protect their houses and lands.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 22nd, 2010.
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