Approximately 2,758 people have occupied land along Sukkur Barrage, said a report submitted by the irrigation department to the Supreme Court following its earlier directives.
Sukkur Barrage is a very sensitive and an important structure, therefore, cultivating the land too close to the barrage is a very serious matter, which needs to be dealt with an iron hand, Sukkur Barrage executive engineer Mohammad Murad Mahar told The Express Tribune. He added that he had reported the matter to the high-ups and was waiting for their response.
According to him, irrigation authorities used to lease out the island near gates number six to 14 till the year 1994 but cultivation of the land was banned later. Despite the ban, the land was being cultivated right under the nose of the authorities. An irrigation employee, requesting anonymity, said that the people behind this practice were far more influential than the irrigation authorities.
Criminal negligence on part of the authorities has allowed people to encroach on the land on the embankments of all seven off-taking canals of the barrage. Moreover, influential people have also occupied the river bed near Rohri and in front of gate numbers six to 14 of the barrage, where they are sowing vegetables and other crops and drawing water from the river, he explained.
Recently, a high police officer tried to forcibly occupy irrigation land at the embankment of Dadu Canal, but timely action forced him to surrender, a resident recalled. Earlier, people had encroached on the right bank of river Indus alongside Bunder Road, which was vacated after paying compensation worth Rs600 million in 2011.
Sukkur Barrage has seven off-taking canals, out of which three - Dadu Canal, Rice Canal and North Western Canal (Kirthar) - are situated in its right pocket, and four - Khairpur Feeder West, Rohri Canal, Khairpur Feeder East and Nara Canal - are in the left pocket.
A large number of people, a majority of whom are Mirani clansmen, have constructed houses and shops on the embankments of the canals.
Today, these illegal localities have grown into big colonies, where all civic facilities, including, electricity, gas and telephone connection are available. Residents claim that these localities also serve as a safe haven for criminals, as one can find drug dens and gambling dens, which are being run under the patronage of the police. A huge island has also emerged because of the permanent closure of its 10 gates. For his part, the chief engineer of Sukkur Barrage, Ahmed Junaid Memon, said that he had recently taken charge and was therefore unaware of the matter. He suggested contacting former chief engineer, Jam Mitha Khan, who said that a detailed report has been sent to the Supreme Court. He agreed that these encroachments were decades old and should be removed to improve the irrigation system.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 25th, 2013.
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