by Altaf Hussain, Hyderabad, Sindh
The deluge that brought immeasurable agony and destruction in the country was not unanticipated as China weather department had given forewarning of harsh monsoon months before the rains started. Whereas Sindh was even aware precisely about the magnitude of impending super floods as torrents which destroyed much of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and inundated southern Punjab was ultimately destined to discharge in Arabian Sea through river Indus.
Thus the super flood ultimately hit with full ferocity the fragile dykes of Sindh and inundated almost 1/3 of the province was not a surprise. Almost most of its northern districts have been submerged into flood waters leaving millions of people shelter less. Their only livelihood the standing crop and livestock has vanished. Once living contended in their huts and small houses since centuries these people are now nomads in their own homeland; malnourished sick and with no future in sight.
Now question arise as to who is responsible for the agony of millions of people? Although floods of high magnitude have pass through Indus system almost once in a decade but the scale of present destruction is unheard of in the history of floods. The reasons are obvious. Not only upkeep of protective Bunds was completely ignored and left to builders mafias to dig its gravel for construction, especially near big towns but the reverine forests existed on both sides of riverbed and used to protect the dykes were mercilessly slaughtered and virgin lands were allotted to influential people. They created there own dukes to protect their crops; one of the major cause of damaging the protective Bunds.
Obviously the maintenance and upkeep of Bunds is the sole responsibility of Provincial Irrigation Department. For which millions of rupees are allocated in the budget every year. The Irrigation Department not only failed to maintain the protective Bunds but when the crises unfolded abandoned its responsibility handing over maintenance to Pak Army. Now the senior irrigation people apart from justifying their failure sheepishly in talk shows are almost non existent on the sites.
The handing over safety of Bunds to Army at eleventh hour could not save millions of people from total ruin and obviously will not absolve Irrigation department from the destruction wrought by the river even in settled/pacca areas. This is clear cut case of dereliction on the part of irrigation department requiring independent judicial commission to fix guilt and take to task those howsoever powerful they may be who are found responsible.
The present regime, which claims to have roots in the masses, has to take immediate action against the culprits for whose negligence entire Sindh has suffered incalculable destruction.
August 29, 2010