Too submerged to rebuild

October 16, 2022

People returning to their abodes face multiple challenges in restarting their lives. In many cases their homes and land remain submerged

Too submerged to rebuild


onths after this year’s deadly rains, Sindh continues to struggle to cope with the challenges of dewatering and rehabilitation of those affected. Since June 14, when the rains started, parts of Sindh have remained submerged even though it last rained two months ago. Authorities are conducting assessments to determine the exact volume of losses. The exercise will be completed once water is drained out and assessment teams have access to all affected areas.

The government is faced with many challenges in this regard. Dewatering is one. “Surface rain water level has gone down to 60 percent in some areas. It is likely that the water will be completely drained by end of November,” Abdul Rasheed Channa, the spokesman for the Sindh chief minister tells The News on Sunday.

According to the Sindh government, out of the 600,000 people in the province who were displaced during the floods, only ten percent have returned to their areas. Those returning to their areas are facing multiple challenges in restarting their lives. They need homes, livelihoods, provision of clean drinking water and toilets etc.

In Dadu, transportation has become an issue for people wanting to return to their homes in areas where water has started receding. During the floods, boats were used for transportation. But after the water level went down, boats became useless. There is also the challenge of distributing rations among the uprooted people.

“People want to return to their homes. However, transportation is a problem. Earlier fibre-glass boats were being used to carry people. This is no longer possible,” says Mashooque Birahmani, a development expert.

According to Biramhani, people returning to their lands need public washrooms, which his organisation is providing. There is also need for assuring the supply of drinking water. A large number of hand pumps that were a major source of groundwater have been damaged.

The monsoon rains washed away standing crops – a major source of livelihood in the province – over a vast area. Stagnant water will also reduce cultivation area for the next wheat crop whose sowing should begin at the start of November.

According to Agriculture Extension, this year’s wheat cultivation area target is 1.2 million hectares. However, the province is likely to miss 20 percent of the crop area that may not be fully dewatered by November.

Nawabshah-based peasants’ rights activists like Akram Khaskheli, president of the Hari Welfare Association (HWA), say that due to floods, the peasants have been left indebted. The standing crops have been washed away. Under the crop sharing formula they will have to bear the loss with the landlords.

“Poor farmers are borrowing from their landlords to survive the hardship. Such arrangements result in debt bondage,” Khaskheli tells TNS. To avoid this situation, the government should compensate the growers for the loss of the crops, he says.

He also says that dewatering should be a priority, especially in areas that have no access to drainage system. Failing this, people could face food insecurity ahead.

Rafia Gulani, a women workers’ rights activist from Sanghar district, is the chairperson of Sindh Naari Porhiyat Council. She says women were majorly affected during floods and demands that the government focus especially on rehabilitating them.

“There are already complaints that flood affected women are being sexually exploited. To prevent major social disruption, the government should issue grants for skilled women workers so that they can stand on their own feet. Also, the government should distribute livestock among women farmers. This will help them financially,” Gulani says.

1.8 million houses were damaged in Sindh in the floods. The provincial government has announced plans for a Rs 110 billion project for the reconstruction of the houses.

“This project will commence in December with the help of the World Bank,” Channa says.

Muhammad Yousaf Chhutto, project coordinator at the ACTED, a non-government organisation, says they are planning to build 800 houses for flood victims. He says they are waiting for donors’ approval and release of funds.

Sindh’s areas bordering Balochistan are the coldest in winter. With winter approaching, there is concern among the people. Jacobabad, the coldest area of the province during winter, is such a place. In the past, temperature has dropped to as low as zero degrees centigrade

“In winter, people will need places to keep them warm. The tents they have been provided cannot protect them against cold. They will need houses or warmer tents,” says Jan Odhano, who works in the development sector in Jacobabad.

Of the one million population of Jacobabad district, 75 percent have no gas. In winter, they burn wood to keep themselves warm. “This year they will face a huge challenge. These people have limited mobility and little access to trees as the area is still inundated,” Odhano says.

Birahmani says malaria has already broken out in Dadu and there is a shortage of medicines. He adds that snakebites are on the rise.

“People need raised structures to sleep as tents on low ground are vulnerable to snakes and reptiles. With the change of weather, there will be a demand for winter-related medicines,” he adds.

The writer is a Karachi-based environment journalist. He tweets @zulfiqarkunbhar

Too submerged to rebuild