AS a former Irrigation Engineer I was surprised to read Khair Muhammad’s letter, ‘Wall in the Indus river’, regarding the construction of a huge wall by the Pakistan Navy for a park in the Indus River just downstream of Landsdowne Bridge (Jan 11).

He is right that it would “create a risk for the Sukkur barrage.” The wall itself may not remain safe because of the possibility of a deep gash caused by the river, particularly during floods.

I should be more concerned though for the safety of the barrage. Sukkur Barrage was commissioned in 1932. The Indus is an alluvial river. Over the past 80 years it has adopted a regime in its approach to the barrage.

It is of utmost importance to maintain such a regime for operational efficiency of the barrage as well as for its safety.

Any intervention in its flow like the wall in question could affect its appropriate river approach to the barrage. I always treated alluvial rivers as dynamic living beings. They demand respect.

They don’t tolerate any intervention in their flow regime by any structure unless properly designed and they are appropriately trained and tamed to approach it and pass safely; be it a bridge or a barrage.

One must bear in mind that the Indus is the fifth largest river in the world. It demands due respect. It would not tolerate to be tinkered with like a toy. Should any damage occur to it because of the Pakistan Navy wall or any other intervention, then it may fail to feed the seven off-taking canals.

Some 7.5 million acres of land in central Sindh may remain fallow. It may result in famine and starvation, besides hurting the socio-economic backbone of the province.

The letter appeals to the chief engineer of the Sukkur Barrage to approach naval authorities to stop work on the wall.

Surprisingly the wall in question was built under the nose of the chief engineer and his subordinates. Did they approve construction of the wall?

If not, then why did they fail to stop its construction? Under the law concerned, no institution, whether government or private, can construct any wall or any other structure on a river or a canal without prior approval of the irrigation department concerned.

BASHIR A. MALIK Lahore

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