Dykes breached, villages inundated and people forced out of homes
Heavy monsoon rains in Badin, Tharparkar, Mirpurkhas and other districts of Sindh have left behind a trail of unprecedented devastation.
Downpours continued to batter these areas in the last 10 days of August. Breaches caused by flooding in drains, including the Left Bank Outfall Drain, caused massive destruction.
Several hundred villages from Jhudo town in Mirpurkhas to Tharparkar’s Kaloi town and from Badin’s Pangrio towards the sandy dunes of Tharparkar are still submerged. Similar reports have been pouring in from the worst-affected Umerkot district.
Gushing water from the breaches have washed away crops and forced people to move to safer places. Low-lying areas as well as agricultural land with ready-to-harvest rice crop are still submerged in knee-high water.
Residents are forced spend their days and nights either in relief camps or on the roads and dykes of the same breached drains and canals with little hope of respite from the troubles caused by the indifferent attitude of government functionaries.
They came out on roads in Golarchi, Pangrio, Shadi Large, Kaloi and other areas, demanding the authorities drain marooned localities and fields. The protesters demanded food for people who are forced to live under the open skies for several days.
They said floodwater had not only washed away their crops, but damaged their houses too. They have not yet been provided tents, food, drinking water or medicine.
Former Sindh chief minister Arbab Ghulam Rahim, who visited the affected areas of Tharparkar and Mirpurkhas, holds the rulers responsible for the two LBOD breaches and subsequent plight of tens of thousands of people.
“They are only interested in making money by showing the plight of the marooned people,” he said. “They will do nothing to mitigate their unending suffering in the wake of fresh spell of rains.”
Rahim demanded the Centre take effective measures to provide relief to these people. Only the jawans of the armed forces helped rescue stranded people and plug the LBOD breach near Malkani Sharif in Badin.
Mir Noor Ahmed Talpur, the chief of the Save Badin Action Committee, demanded a major relief package for the farming community of Badin and other districts. The SBAC was formed last year by farmers to agitate for an end to the irrigation water crisis in Badin.
Most of the tomato, cotton and chili crops were washed away by the rains, according to Talpur. They have also sustained billions in losses due to a months-long acute water shortage. He demanded a complete survey of their losses and relief package for affected farmers.
Khalil Ahmed Bhurgari, another activist and grower whose family owns land in Badin and Tharparkar, said officials of the irrigation department and Sindh Irrigation and Drainage Authority were equally responsible for the wide breaches.
He warned of dire consequences if cuts were put in the LBOD dyke to prevent pressure from building up at Zero Point near Shadi Large town to divert water towards Tharparkar and Badin.
Agriculture Minister Ismail Rahu, who is also the focal person for rain emergency in Badin district, said the situation was being controlled by plugging the breaches in major drains. “We are providing maximum relief to people who moved into relief camps and those on the roads.”
Rahu said they didn’t expect such heavy rainfall but the district administration was making sincere efforts to tackle the situation. Machines had been installed to drain water from marooned villages and low-lying localities of Golarchi, he said.
The Sindh government will conduct a survey to assess the losses after the rescue and relief operation, according to the minister. Despite its limited resources, the government is doing its best to provide relief to people affected by the unprecedented rains, he said.
Culture Minister Sardar Ali Shah, who is the focal person for rain emergency in Tharparkar and Umerkot, said they had already drained water from Diplo and were now focusing on other inundated areas in Thar.
The situation is well under control in Thar but there are some difficulties in parts of Umerkot, according to Shah. It will improve once it stops raining in these areas.