As the swollen rivers swamped villages in South Punjab after devastating central Punjab, the civil administration and military officials joined hands on Friday to avert disaster from Multan, Khanewal and Muzaffargarh districts.
The water level is at peak at Fazil Shah dyke, with 600,000 cusecs of water as the Ravi and Chenab rivers converged at Sardaar Pur. To reduce the pressure of the water headed towards Multan, Head Muhammadwala was breached twice to divert the water towards the rural areas in the west and north of Multan city. As the water level kept rising towards the last line of defence of Multan city – Sikandari Canal - the Sher Shah dyke was breached with the use of explosives.
Ground communications from Multan to Muzafargarh, Jhang, Layyah, and Dera Ismail Khan have been suspended. The only available ground channel to Muzafargarh and onwards to Dera Ghazi Khan and Balochistan was dismantled. The Lahore-Multan-Quetta national highway was breached as water was shifted towards the rural areas of sub-district Shujabad in Multan district. The water is expected to move towards Jalalpur Peerwala in Multan before it heads to Panjnad. All railway tracks connecting Multan and Muzafargarh are submerged and railway communication in South Punjab has been suspended.
If the water level does not decrease, the Doaaba dyke in Muzafargarh district will be breached and the water will then enter the district. The aim here is to save power generation plants in the district. MNA Jamshed Dasti organised a protest against the government for placing explosives in Doaaba dyke. Roughly 1,500 protesters blocked the national highway and Chenab Bridge Friday morning and the protest continued until the evening.
According to DCO Khanewal Usman Ali Moazam, losses in the district include 1,200 houses, 470 rural settlements and 50,000 acres of land. An estimated 100,000 people have been affected in Kabeerwala and Khanewal, he said. DPO Khanewal Rana Ayaz Saleem said that an estimated 50,000 people have been moved to 30 relief camps within the district over the last seven days.
Head Panjnad, where five rivers of Punjab meet, has not been desilted for the last 15 years. When it was constructed, it had a maximum capacity of 700,000 cusecs. However, due to the lack of desilting, Panjnad can now hold 350,000 cusecs of water only. The water flow this morning (Saturday) is expected to cross 250,000 cusecs. By Friday evening, the water rose to 184,288 cusecs.
In order to save Head Panjnad and sub-district Uch Sharif of Bahawalpur, as well as sub-district Alipur of Muzafargarh, explosives have been installed in Mudwala, Dammarwala, Chandar Bhaan and Khanani dykes. Of 124 villages in sub-district Alipur, 51 have been submerged. Some 2,800 houses are under water. During the 2010 floods, 1,545 houses were affected.
The 100 foot-dyke in Head Muhammadwala was expanded to 300 feet with the use of cranes and three explosions. This reduced the water pressure on Akbar dyke and Bosan dyke. The water level at Head Muhammadwaala is still more than 600,000 cusecs.
After the breach of both dykes, 600 small rural settlements and 200,000 acres of agricultural lands, gardens and crops have been submerged in Multan, Jalalpur Peer Waala and Shujabad.
Almost 25 villages were inundated as Seepar Number 3 dyke was breached near Jahaanian on the border of Multan and Muzafargarh.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 13th, 2014.
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