Flooding threat looming over Ratodero villages
By: M.B. Kalhoro
LARKANA: No less than 70,000 acres of agricultural land in three union councils of Ratodero taluka was totally submerged during the recent torrential rains and flooding. The UCs — Warisdino Machi, Jummo Agham and Taib — had paddy crop grown on the lands and the growers blame officials of the Salinity Control and Reclamation Programme (Scarp) as well as the irrigation officials concerned for the huge loss.
During a visit to the taluka, they told this correspondent that Scarp and the irrigation department were indifferent, saying that the Haidar Chandio seem nullah (saline water drain) had never been de-silted ever since if was developed while most pumping machines meant for flushing out rainwater into the drain were non-functional during and after the rains.
The drain, which runs between Shikarpur and the tail-end of Mirokhan in Kambar-Shahdadkot district, had swelled beyond its capacity during the rains and the flood water not only encircled the villages but submerged the access to the villages from all sides.
Water from two sub-drains made its way into the main drain at the Kodrani village and the Rasheed Brohi village had reach near inundation when water from the main drain started flowing in the opposite direction.
Sensing the threat, they moved out of the village and took shelter at some higher place away from it.
One of the affected villagers, Shah Murad Brohi told Larkana Deputy Commissioner Asadullah Abro during his visit to the link-points on Monday night that if emergency measures were not taken to control the backflow, the gushing water would wash away the village. He said that the nearby villages, Wada Gopang, Nabi Shah Wagan and Ali Bakhsh Khokhar, had already submerged and their population had been moved away.
Mr Abro said that ration along with 150 tents and mosquito nets had been provided to the villagers rendered homeless by floodwater, adding that the work to plug 15 small breaches and seepage had been started immediately.
Scarp project director Farooque Ahmed Channar spoke to Dawn near Jummo Agham village and admitted that the Haidar Chandio drain had never been de-silted since it was laid in 1965. The reason is simple: no allocation had been made for its maintenance, he claimed. “We have to maintain 532 tubewells but only 428 of them are currently operational,” he further admitted.
The main course of the drain is occupied by self-grown plants and weeds which obstruct flow of water and cause pumping to become ineffective. “Yes, the heavy machinery — excavators, dumpers, etc — were moved to the vulnerable points but water discharge kept on mounting,” said villagers.
Both the official and villagers agree that there was a serious threat to the nearby villages. A villager, Ibrahim Ghanghro, while wading through the flooded way to his village, said that the saline water standing in the fields posed a serious threat to the crop.
He begged for clearing of the approach routes to the villages.
Floodwater standing all around the villages and over hundreds of acres of land becomes a breeding ground for mosquitoes. The government has to take urgent measures to prevent outbreaks, which could prove to be yet another major issue to tackle.
Mr Abro complained that Wapda and Scarp officials did not turn up to save villagers from the natural disaster. He said the water level was constantly rising and the threat of floods was looming large.
A large number of villagers from Morio Khan Lolai, Ali Dost Kharos and Arbani villages gathered at Jammo Agham bridge, some 40 kilometers from Larkana, said that the threat was haunting them as water level was going up with each passing day. Tottal Odho, who has been monitoring the water level, was much worried about their survival.
The overtopping and breaches caused in the main drain was also blamed on a marginal functioning of a pumping station, situated in the remote area of Mirokhan, some 35 kilometres from the city. When this correspondent arrived at the pumping station at about 10pm on Monday night, the Right Bank Outfall Drain (RBOD) Chief Engineer Sultan Ahmed Dogar was present there along with Superintendent Engineer Mir Ahmed Bajkani and engineer Abdul Rehman Shaikh.
It was noticed that out of 10 big pumping machines with their outlets in Warah Canal, only two were operational and another one was made operation within the next 30 minutes.
“The pumping station was constructed in 1989 and 10 heavy motors were installed here in 2005,” said the RBOD executive engineer, adding: “the facility was made functional in March 2012 but due to unavailability of a minimum of 1.7-metre deep water in the drain, on cannot test the pumps. This station has not been officially handed over to Wapda yet,” Chief Engineer Mr Dogar said that three siphons with 100 cusecs capacity were also running parallel to these 10 pumps to flush out water into Warah Canal and drain on gravitational force.
Larkana DC said that each pump was designed to discharge 60 cusecs.
On Tuesday morning, the DC told Dawn that rains and the drain water had affected 19 dehs in three union councils where 7,486 acres of standing paddy crop had totally been ruined. He said that the total area affected by the rains and flooding was 13,512 acres. The Senior Member Board of Revenue, Sindh, had been apprised of the situation and urged to declare the affected UCs a calamity hit area.
On Sept 16, Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah declared the three UCs a calamity-hit area and announced a compensation for all the damage caused by the natural disaster. He promised that stagnant water would be pumped out from villages and fields within the next 15 days.
Although, the floodwater has began receding, the danger is yet not over as currents from Shikarpur and Jacobabad were entering the calamity-hit area, sources in Ratodero said.