Stagnant rainwater: people stranded on Sindh-Balochistan border
LARKANA: Around 500 families from villages spread across the Sindh-Balochistan border, who had gathered around the Saifullah Magsi branch — emerging from the Khirthar branch — in Hazarwah union council after escaping the onslaught of heavy rains in their areas, are marooned there because rainwater has not been drained from the area.
Almost all of the 42 big and small villages in Hazarwah, Qubo Saeed Khan taluka of Qambar-Shahdadkot district, were damaged during the monsoon. From afar, Hazarwah, which is around 75 kilometres from Larkana, looks like a lake with houses, a school which was built in 1813, and the Imam Bakhsh Jamali police station poking out from the surface.
A tent settlement is visible on the right bank of the Saifullah Magsi branch. Some families have constructed temporary huts to ward off the cold. Many men have left to look for work in the nearby paddy fields, leaving their families behind.
Traffic to Baghtail, Khuzdar and other areas in Balochistan still remains suspended because the Imam Bakhsh Jamali-Gandakha Road was damaged during the monsoon this year. On the left side of the canal, the motorway was already damaged from Qubo Saeed Khan to Shahdadkot when it caught a fresh onslaught of the 2012 monsoon.
The chief of NGOs Development Society (NDS), Abdul Gaffar Pandrani, said that according to a survey conducted by his organisation, around 40 villages in Hazarwah and Qubo Saeed Khan had been severely damaged in the monsoon. However, according to figures provided by the provincial disaster management authority, around 1,847 villages were affected in Qambar-Shahdadkot district affecting about 243,249 people. The Qambar-Shahdadkot president of the Sindh Abadgar Board (SAB), Ishaque Mughiri, said that about 300,000 people were displaced in the 2012 monsoon.
According to a resident of Manzoor Khan Jamali village, Gul Sher Magsi, more than 400 houses were destroyed in his village alone. The residents had to leave their ready crops behind and evacuate the area.
“The relief provided by the government was next to nothing,” said Muhammad Rafique Jatak of Meeran village. “We are reusing the tents which we were given to us in 2010.”
According to the NDS chief, Haleem Adil Sheikh, adviser to the chief minister on relief, did pay a visit to the area but nothing materialized after that.
The people do not have clean water to drink, said Javed Ali Brohi. He said the people had to walk three kilometers to get water from the few hand pumps installed on the Shahdadkot-Imam Bakhsh Jamali Road.
In the medical camp set up by the Qambar-Shahdadkot district health office on the Imam Bakhsh Jamali bridge, sat dispenser Altaf Ali Channa.
He said it had been seven days since his posting in Hazarwah, as he gave away sub-standard medicines to the people who came.
According to him diarrhoea, malaria, peptic ulcer and scabies was the most common diseases affecting the people living here, but he did not have a single sachet of ORS.
The people complained that Mr Channa prescribed the same kind of suspension and tablets for all ailments and they threw away the medicines without even using them.
A peasant, Muhammed Salah Solangi of Feroz Jamali village, said that he and his fellow workers had hoped that their landlord Iqbal Jamali would come to their aid, but he did not. “Now we don’t see the water receding anytime soon. So we are packing and leaving for Shutto Mastoi village in Mirokhan taluka,” he said. “The patwari visited this area and flatly refused to enter our names in the damage survey and said that he had been told to record the damage of specific people.”
A resident of the Chakar Sasoli village, Barkhurdar Brohi, said that the irrigation officials had installed a pipe near the Lundi minor point to drain the rainwater into the in the Saifullah Magsi branch. He said that a few influential people of the area had blocked the flow of water from Lundi minor, from where two roads to Kot Magsi and Baghtail originated.
The chief of NDS Abdul Ghaffar Gaffar Pandrani, said that the water flow was diverted to save the land of the Magsis. “Had the accumulated water been allowed to flow alongside the Saifullah Magsi branch, there would have been little damage,” he said.
After a drive of about half an hour on the left bank of Saifullah Magsi branch, came Chuki Pul where the Hairdin Drain, drain carrying industrial effluent flowing from Balochistan, met with an irrigation tributary, Rabi Shakh.
Construction work at the Right Bank Outfall Drain I (RBOD-I), which is an extension of the Hairdin Drain stopped with the monsoon and has been suspended since. The Rabi Shakh flows along side the unfinished RBOD-I and both overlap each other in places. The Qambar-Shahdadkot president of SAB, Ishaque Mughiri, said that the government caved in to the pressure mounted by civil society and local people and did not dare open the siphons of RBOD-III near Noorpur, which saved Shahdadkot and its adjacent areas when rainwater was drained into the Saifullah Magsi branch. “This was why only 3,500 acres of agricultural land was damaged,” he said. “However, the Kharif crop was damaged and we fear that there no water would be available for irrigating the Rabi crop.” The rice-growing belt had been affected consecutively for past few years by the heavy rains.
According to the SAB district president, the command area of Saifullah Magsi branch was 153,000 acres which had been badly affected. “This year the farmers yielded 65 per cent less crop,” he said. “The farmers can’t harvest anything else here.”
Mr Mughiri endorsed the idea of Sindh Minister Mir Nadir Ali Magsi who had suggested constructing a drain parallel to Khirthar canal flowing along Faizabad, Habibkot, Qaboolo, Kot Magsi, Chukhi, Hamal, Main Nara Valley Drain and Manchhar to eventually ending up in the Arabian Sea. “This is the only way we can avoid damages caused by monsoon and floods,” he said.