Repair work being done by the Sindh Irrigation and Drainage Authority and the irrigation department at the LBOD has drastically slowed down without plugging many hundred feet wide cuts in the drain, say residents.
Last week, the drain had developed its third cut which is 80-feet wide at 287 reduced distance near Naukot Town. Earlier, two wide cuts in the LBOD during the heavy downpours in late August had already created havoc in the villages in Badin, Mirpurkhas and the barrage areas of Tharparkar district.
The affected people have been protesting the government’s lack of action to plug the drain. They say the cuts have already caused major devastation in Jhudo, Naukot and Kaloi and with the repair work suddenly slowing down, residents are in more trouble as rainwater is still flowing from Umerkot and other districts. It is causing more damage to their houses and other structures.
The LBOD is a 385km long ‘drain’ that was built in the late 1990s with the help of World Bank money to try to tackle water logging and salinity. It is an artificial waterway from Nawabshah down to the sea and is supposed to drain out or carry municipal waste, saline subsoil water, to put it crudely. And while it is difficult to go into the details here, it is important to mention that the LBOD has often been the subject of controversy and politics and has generally acquired a bit of a grim reputation.
Residents said it was beyond their imagination why the repair work had slowed down and 90% of the people hired had gone when water is still gushing out of the cuts into Mirpurkhas and Tharparkar districts.
Residents said the cuts were “deliberate”. The water had damaged their crops and houses and forcing them to take shelter at safer places. Thousands of displaced families were living in subhuman conditions in so-called relief camps, atop sandy dunes without any proper assistance from district administrations.
Mirpurkhas Deputy Commissioner Zahid Hussain Memon and LBOD Director Zaheer Memon expressed their concern over the situation. They were briefing Hyderabad General Officer Commanding (GOC) Mohammad Kashif at a relief camp set up in the Government Boys Degree College, Jhuddo.
Zahid informed Kashif that problems were often reported during heavy rainfall in that system of the drain. He was informed that the LBOD, built by Wapda in the 1980s, was currently under the control of the Sindh irrigation department which had noted many faults in the system of drains.
During the current rainfall, 90% of the cotton and chilli crops had been damaged. A survey is being done by the agriculture and revenue departments over this. The LBOD director said the capacity of the main drain of the LBOD system was 4,600 cusecs, but the drain received double the flow of its actual capacity during the heavy rainfall since rainwater came from four districts – Benazirabad, Sanghar, parts of Umerkot, Mirpurkhas and Badin.
He called the situation “sensitive” and said the drain’s vulnerability increased. Zaheer said there was a proposal that a parallel drain should be built to offload the spinal drain and that parallel drain would carry flows of those old Hakro and Puran waterways only to enter the main drain at a safe point to carry away the water to sea.
According to unconfirmed reports the repair work has stopped because officials fear more cuts in the swelling drain amid prediction of more rain in the catchment areas of the LBOD in the next few days.