Farmers forced to bear expenses of desilting of Nara canal system
MIRPURKHAS, Feb 4: Farmers whose lands are watered by the Nara canal system are compelled to bear expenses of desiliting of off-taking canals, distributaries and water channels, thanks to a shortage of funds and irresponsible attitude of the officials of the irrigation department.
Officials of the irrigation department blamed the government for allocating a very meagre amount of funds for desilting and repair of canals and distributaries of the Nara canal.
As a result, many distributaries and channels could not be desilted this year, they said.
In many areas, farmers and landlords have taken it upon themselves to get distributaries and minors desilted on a self-help basis to ensure that water reaches tail-end areas during a shortage of the precious commodity.
The Nara canal system which branches out into Jamrao, Mithrao and Thar canals and each canal further divides into many distributaries and channels was closed on Jan 6 for annual repairs and desilting.
Official sources said the director of the Nara Canal Area Water Board Ghulam Mustafa Ujjan had sent a summary to the government for release of adequate funds for desilting of a selected number of distributaries and canals but the government allocated only Rs3.5 million for Jamrao and Rs9 million for Thar, said the officials.
Nevertheless, the mechanical wing of the irrigation department moved heavy machinery to different sites and the officials decided to persuade farmers and landlords to carry out desilting on a self-help basis.
The sources said the director had sent a separate proposal to the chief minister to release funds for desilting of the Mithrao canal and he had also approved it but the finance department did not release funds, forcing the department to seek a loan to get the canal desilted on time.
Mr Ujjan told Dawn that desilting of the Khipro canal had been launched under the Water Sector Improvement Project (WSIP), water channels of Jamrao division, including Sanghro, Lakhakhi, Digri distributary, Puran distributary, Chahu minor and Gorchani minor had been cleaned with government funds while farmers and landlords helped in desilting of the Jamrao canal from Jhilori regulator, 89 Miles to 116 miles, Kaho minor, Tando Minor, Khatyan minor, Buggi minor, Puran Feeder, Dileri minor.
He said that Patoyoon distributary, Sadrat minor, Murid distributary, Mari minor, Bilaro distributary, Daulatpur minor, Barejo distributary, Sanhro distributary, Doso distributary and Mirpur distributary could not be desilted because of a shortage of funds.
He said that Nabisar branch, Naukot branch, Dilshad distributary, Toori minor, Doso distributary, Sindhri minor, Bhurgari distributary, Samaro distributary, Sohrab distributary, Sanwari distributary and Akuto distributary were being desilted with government funds and Bugti minor, Saidki minor, Palli distributary, Chorkee minor, Gurki minor, Chach minor, Chatto minor, Old Sunthi minor, New Sunthi minor, Bhan minor, Billalani minor, Fazal minor, Bustan distributary, Kunri distributary and Nabisar minor were being cleaned by farmers on self-help basis.
Mr Ujjan said that many water channels fed by the Mithrao canal could not be desilted.
However, he said, the Khipro canal, Samarjo branch and a number of distributaries of Thar canal were being desilted with the help of government machinery and local farmers.
He said that water had been released into Nara canal which would soon bring to a halt all work on desilting of main canals.
The president of the Mirpurkhas chapter of the Sindh Chamber of Agriculture, Mir Zafarullah Talpur, criticised the government for allocating a very meagre amount for the important exercise, forcing landlords and growers to bear the additional burden of desilting.
He urged the government to release adequate funds for desilting and repairs of water channels and canals in lower Sindh region, which always faced the brunt of water shortage because of being situated at the tail-end.