HYDERABAD: When the river was already raging towards the province, all hands were finally called on deck. Evacuation, emergency strengthening of weak embankments and stone-pitching was started in all vulnerable districts. Orders were given to find bigger and better stones, and in massive amounts, and bring them to vulnerable points near the river.
Muhammad Bashir is one of these unsung heroes who hack away all day at rocky hills and transport heavy boulders and rocks so that villages, lands and people are safe from the flood.
But while he feels for all those people whose lives were washed away by the floods, he has worries of his own.
“I get Rs2,000 to fill a truck and take it back to the required place,” Bashir said. “We’re really poor but when we ask them to increase the rate, they tell us to stop working.”
Bashir and six other labourers board a truck and come to the vast shoaling reserves in Jhirik, Hyderabad. It takes them two days to fill one truck.
With only basic tools, the men spend all day breaking stones, picking them up and piling them into their truck. After completing loading, they travel back to the required place where they have to unload the stones as well. Their struggle gets them a mealy compensation which is barely enough to make ends meet, the labourers bemoan. The labourers are hired by contractors, which the government uses as middlemen to get their work done.
Jhirik is one of the hotspots for getting the stones requiring in pitching embankments. Located near the National Highway between Hyderabad to Thatta, the small town has vast shoaling reserves.
These stones are used to strengthen roads and embankments.
These days, all of them are being transported to Hyderabad, Matiari, Thatta and other vulnerable areas for preventive measures against flooding.
Imtiaz Abro, estate executive engineer, explained that they ask for one cubic foot stones which have to be very strong. “They can’t be the type that breaks when it falls,” he said, adding that they used standardised stones for pitching.
According to the irrigation department, till now the administration has used 3,500 trucks worth of stones to strengthen embankments in four districts of lower Sindh. However, National Assembly deputy from Sajawal, Ayaz Shah Sherazi, disputed the department’s claim.
“Before the floods came, we asked them [irrigation department] to get stones and where its required, throw down the stones,” Sherazi said, “At that time they brought in a truck or two everyday but even then, by my estimations, the work done here did not use up even 100 trucks.”
Published in The Express Tribune, August 26th, 2010.
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