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August 19, 2015

Take heed of recent floods, environmentalists tell govt


August 19, 2015

HYDERABAD: The government should learn a thing or two from the recent frequent floods and remove all artificial barriers restricting the river flow, water experts and environmentalists said on Tuesday.
According to them, the river Indus flood 2010, carrying around 1,200,000 cusecs of water exposed the government’s preparedness at that time. Now, even 650,000 cusecs of water has created almost similar situation, causing displacement and destruction everywhere. They predicted that if the government could not realize now and learn lessons, the province may be ruined by merely 300,000 cusec water in the near future.
The flood water in the river Indus has swept the entire roads, infrastructure and barriers in the catchment area, they said.
A professor Ismail Kumbhar, who has conducted a study on the river embankments, earlier linked the recent floods to the ignorance of the government. “Despite huge claims, it has failed to remove artificial barriers within river bed and catchment area even after five years of the 2010 floods,” he said.
The government is yet to initiate forest cover, in order to avoid any destruction, as natural forests can provide shields to avert disasters.
“This year’s flood is enough for authorities to remove blockades from the river bed and catchment area,” he said, adding that the poor peasant families should have alternate livelihood and permanent accommodations to shift their families to safety.
“I saw how influential landlords put their farmers engaged with excavators and tractors to strengthen earthen wall to save their banana crops in Thatta district,” Kumbhar said, “But now the same crops, standing in the natural route have become flooded.” It is not a single example; entire area of forest land has been given lease to certain politically influential persons for 99 years and these people have cleaned the forests and used the land for cultivation.
He suggested formation of a law that allows only

landless farmers to have pieces of land to cultivate for vegetables during winter season and the imposition of a ban on cultivation of crops in monsoon season to avoid loss, like the farmers are experiencing now.
Prof Kumbhar said riverine communities should be motivated with incentives to plant forests on their own and stay watchful to avoid cutting any trees in their areas. This is the only way out to protect the environment and avoid effects of heat waves and viral attacks on crops. Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum (PFF) chairperson Muhammad Ali Shah, who led the caravan for keeping the rivers free, from Jamshoro to Islamabad with hundreds of activists two years ago, said, “Flood is a lifeline of the river, which benefits all creatures, depending on the river stream.”
The river used to feed forests, lakes and natural ponds on its way to the Indus Delta, long ago. But now the river flow has been chained within several embankments and in result flood is sweeping entire infrastructures, causing loss to the humans and their properties and the government is doing nothing to help the affected.
Shah said there is no forest cover to maintain the river flow and recharge the underground water level and ecology. He reiterated the demand to restore the environmental flow of the river, by removal of all barriers instantly. At least 1.5 million persons, residing in 2.2 million acre catchment area, have been affected and majority of them have been pushed to shift their families and livestock to safer places.
Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) Sindh claims to have evacuated 886,461 persons with 559,615 livestock heads from 2,883 villages affected in the 14 districts from upper riparian Kashmore district to tail end Sujawal and Thatta districts. The stream has also hit various small towns with a large number of villages, where people never paid heed to warning calls.
Flood water level at Kotri barrage was recorded on Tuesday at 534919 cusecs, while at Sukkur barrage 480,080 and Guddu Barrage 462,657 cusecs. Furthermore, there is a forecast of a third flow from Punjab within the next few days.
While visiting katcha area near Kotri, which is inundated due to rising flood water in the river Indus, it was witnessed that the water is touching embankments on both sides in the twin cities, Kotri and Hyderabad. Villagers along Kotri side of the river are trying to strengthen the embankment to save nearby villages. However, the local activists say it is an effort to protect Kotri City, which is the headquarter of the Jamshoro district, under threat of inundation. Though, they have succeeded so far, but many villages have already come under water due to rising level of water in downstream Kotri Barrage. It is pertinent to mention that around 7000 families belonging to Karo Khaho, Kolhi Goth, Machhi Goth, a large number of scattered houses in Multani Mayan and wide low-lying area of Kotri City itself have come under water.
PPP MPA Dr Sikandar Shoro was at the site near Kotri city to monitor the construction of protective embankment meant to shield 27 villages and main Kotri city. He said more than 500 volunteers from the neighbouring villages have come to work here to protect their villages.
There were at least 45 excavators, dumpers and tractors engaged to strengthen the embankment around Kotri and surrounded villages, located at 7-km area. The MPA said Jamshoro district government departments are also cooperating in this regard.
Roshan Saha, an activist of Vanjheri Village, located at National Highway said, “Stress points include Hala New, Hala Old, Bhanoth, Old Saeedabad, Sekhat, Bao Dero in Matiari District, as SM Bund is said to be vulnerable.”
A large number of people were seen working day and night, fearing possibility of breaches in the embankment. “There is a fear among residents of neighbouring villages along main national highway and they are watchful to avert mishap,” Shah said, who is monitoring the vulnerable points in the area.

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