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August 17, 2019

After wiping 90 percent crops, rains maroon thousands in ‘water-strapped’ parts of Sindh


August 17, 2019

HYDERABAD: Looking back at the vast sheets of muddy waters and remains of inundated earthen structures, men, women, children, on board a fishing boat, had a hard time believing there used to be a small village out there that was home to them.

So devastating was the flooding following the cloudbursts on August 11, 2019 that the residents of village Muhammad Janyaro had to boat to a convenient place near Keti Bunder. It left the most of the coastal areas of Thatta district under water. The torrents and subsequent inundation had washed away most of the roads, marooning the local residents.

The Janyaro village is located near the coastal Town Baghan, the last land route along the sea. There are reports of breaches in overtopping Ochto Outfall Drain (OOD) after heavy rains, which have inundated wide areas. The people were wading through the water to reach safer places.

Reports collected from local activists in stranded areas show there are breaches in all three natural drains, including Jam-Sakro Drain, Ghora Bari Outfall Drain and Ochto Outfall Rain. These drains do not have the capacity to carry more water. Thus, after heavy rainfall, overtopping drains breached, eroding parts of land routes, leaving the locals helpless. Earlier, these drains were natural waterways to stream floodwater to the sea.

The breaches in drains and fish farms not only affected villages but also destroyed crops, specifically in Ghorabari area. Several villages are still disconnected from the rest of

world because most of the road infrastructure is gone, community activists told

The News.

Adam Janyaro, a folklore writer from village Muhammad Janyaro, said, “People are helping each other to avoid loss. They have got no equipment to drain the water out of their villages to save their belongings and are struggling to fight for their survival”.

Moreover, having no access to nearby towns and business centers, the people of eight other small villages near Ochto drain, with a population of 22,000-23,000, are stranded without food and other necessary supplies.

Villages including Haji Ibrahim Kurmo, Younus Ghan, Rafiq Khaskheli, and others are under water, Janyaro said. Located near coastal areas, people used their fishing vessels for transportation to reach higher grounds.

A number of children belonging to these villages are unable to show up at their educational institutes in towns and cities. Similarly, cases of water-borne and contamination-related diseases are on the rise and there is no access for the people to health facilities.

He said it had been a week since this catastrophe struck but nobody from the district administration or provincial government reached out to offer help to the people marooned in rain-hit areas. These people have been left on their own, while life has come to a swamping halt in those areas.

Gulab Shah, a grower from Keti Bunder, said he had lost all of his crops, standing over 200 acres of land. "I have cultivated rice, vegetables, and banana on my family land. All of them have been destroyed by the floods that followed heavy rains. The luckiest few are left with five-ten acres of crops at the best. Otherwise, 90 percent of the crops have been lost to rain in the otherwise water-deprived area, ironically,” Shah added.

He accused irrigation department officials of negligence as they could not manage to stop irrigation tributaries during the rains to avoid losses to crops. Shah said on one side rains were wreaking havoc and on the other a collapsed irrigation system was making the situation worse.

“It is not a natural disaster. It happened because of the negligence on part of irrigation, fisheries, and revenue departments that failed to manage the systems. Mushrooming private fish farms and poor drainage system have together played a role in the destruction of the area after one-day of heavy rains,” he said.

Shah said three talukas of Thatta district namely Ghorabari, Sakro, Keti Bunder and parts of Kharo Chhan were the worst affected. The alarmed local grower said the season of high tides had also started, which may further create problems for the low-lying areas along the coastline.

If more heavy rains coincided with the high tides the situation would aggravate as rough seas and high tides could engulf wide areas along the coast, he warned. The unending sea erosion had already claimed large swathes of land, forcing people to move to safer places, Shah said adding now the ups and downs in weather were further threatening the coastal communities.

“In fact we are waiting to receive irrigation water for long time to recover losses incurred due to persistent water scarcity. But it is unimaginable for us to receive such heavy destructive rains,” Shah said.

These costal area people mostly depend on agriculture and fishing. Communities, traditionally involved in cultivation for generations, had turned to fishing as an alternative source of income after increasing land degradation and persistent irrigation water scarcity.

Community elders said in recent past coastal area had received such devastating rains in 2007 and then in 2015, but the damages were not as bad as now. The recent rains have caused colossal losses in terms of agriculture, infrastructure, and human settlements, they said.

However, these rains have benefited the people on scattered islands near Keti Bunder and Kharo Chhan as they are now going to have fresh water around their makeshift abodes after a long time.

Anyway, the affected people are crying for help, fearing starvation and outbreaks of water-borne diseases in their villages. Since more rains have been forecast, the people are frightened, as they are left with no cover whatsoever and help from the government is nowhere in the offing.