JHANG, July 25: People evacuated from their houses close to river banks have returned to their abodes after receding of the flood water and are surprised to see that the much propagated devastating flood has not done even the minimum harm either to their houses or to crops.
The calamity might prove a blessing in disguise for the people living along the riverside. Traditionally, the small scale spilling over of the flood water contributes to the fertility of flooded area lands by bringing rich fertile silt from catchment areas. Besides, it also helps in raising of the underground water table to facilitate the irrigation through tubewells and peter engines.
The recent rise in the water level in the river Chenab, from low to medium flood level, has done less damage to the property of the effected people than the loss of household items and, in some cases cattlehead, owing to unnecessary evacuation on the orders of the local administration.
This was the unanimous view of the “effected” people of Jahan Khan, Dadoana, Khlar Awan, Alipur and Chund Bharwana villages visited by this correspondent to observe ravages of the so-called devastating flood.
The flood water has not damaged even a single mud house in Dadoana village, situated only some hundred yards away from river’s right bank, close to the Riwaz bridge.
Progressive farmer Shahbeg Khan Chuckana Sial said the police and the revenue department staff had shifted the people to an area some three kilometres from the village.
He said that we were given the impression that a devastating flood was fast approaching the Riwaz bridge. Villagers left their dwellings in a state of utter confusion, resulting in the loss of precious household items and cattlehead.
The peak discharge gauged at the Trimmu Headworks was 258,000 cusecs, including some 50,000 cusecs being discharged by the river Jhelum, which joins river Chenab a few kilometres upstream from Trimmu. Villages located in kutcha areas close to the river are built at a safe altitude from the river bed level.
People of these areas do not cultivate crops vulnerable to the flood water, such as cotton, sunflower, maize and pulses. Instead, they go for flood-resistant crops like sugarcane and rice, which benefit from the flooding, unless it is very high flood.
Therefore, flood up to 300,000 cusecs is beneficial to farmers rather than a calamity as it not only waters the sugarcane and paddy crop but also raises the underground water level for their tubewells and brings rich silt to add to the soil fertility.
The hydrography at the Trimmu Headworks reveals that it has experienced nine super floods since independence — from 1950 to 1997, with peak discharge of 942,225 cusecs in 1959.
In 1959 and 1973, the flood water twice entered into the municipal limits of Jhang and Saddar (Mighiana), causing huge losses to movable and immovable property to the tune of billions of rupees.
In 1959, there were no dykes or protective bunds while in 1973 one of the dykes near Thatta Mahla breached, flooding the Jhang city. There had also been widespread devastation to kutcha areas of 18 Hazari, Garh Maharaja and Ahmadpur Sial, lying between the river and highland of Thall, in 1973 and 1992 when the Trimmu right Margawal bund was deliberately breached to save headworks.
Since independence, the water discharge during floods had been recorded between 200,000 cusecs and 300,000 cusecs on nearly 20 occasions, which falls in the category of medium flood.
These medium floods have never resulted in the loss of property or life, except for some isolated cases. Floods of low or medium intensity have always been a blessing in disguise for the people of riverine areas, for which they long instead of fearing them.
The hue and cry raised by authorities concerned and the forced evacuation of the people has caused more damage to them by way of shifting their belongings to far off places.