HYDERABAD, March 2: The Sindh irrigation department is awaiting approval by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) for 11 schemes of rehabilitating of river dykes after the Federal Flood Commission (FFC) refused further assistance though it had committed to provide a grant of Rs500 million for repairing only five river embankments out of a total 16.

These 11 schemes are to be executed at a total cost of Rs1.7 billion and the Sindh government is depending upon the ADB which had offered two separate loans for the rehabilitation of river embankments after the 2010 ‘super flood’.

The Sindh government had identified 76 major river dykes in need of repairs after the 2010 ‘super flood’ which had wrecked havoc with the agriculture sector, following which a Damage Need Assessment (DNA) was conducted by international experts on the government’s initiative.

Large swathes of farmland and settlements downstream the Kotri barrage on the left bank of the Indus River in Thatta district had been flooded due to two major breaches. The first breach had occurred on Aug 7, 2010, at Tori bund, downstream Guddu barrage, while the second breach occurred 20 days later on Aug 27 at Kot Almo, downstream Kotri barrage, displacing millions of people besides making a devastating impact on agrarian economy, eventually leading to a loss of billions of rupees.

The river dykes had already been in pretty bad shape when the ‘super flood’ hit the province. Since the authorities had not been prepared to face such a disaster, the catastrophic damage took everyone by surprise. Eight districts in upper Sindh, located on the right bank of the Indus River, had faced most of the damage.

After the 2010 flood, the ADB had stepped in to provide a loan of $234 million for repairing 76 river dykes. The first phase was completed before the monsoon season of 2011 and included works of critical nature. Subsequently, more schemes were executed in the second phase of the Flood Emergency Reconstruction Project (FERP).

The total cost of the reconstruction project was worked out to be $260 million out of which the ADB had committed to provide $234 million with the Sindh government pitching in $26 million, amounting to 10 per cent of the total cost.

Around $184 million was provided by the ADB as ordinary capital resource loan while $50 million was given as an interest-free loan under the Asian Development Fund (ADF).

In addition to the 76 dykes schemes the Sindh government identified 16 new schemes, official sources told Dawn. The schemes were forwarded to the FFC for approval because rehabilitation of river bunds is primarily its job. However, the FFC only promised to provide Rs500 million for only five schemes.

“Yes, the FFC confined itself to financing only five schemes on account of financial constraints,” confirmed FERP project directer Salman Memon. “So we decided to approach the ADB to provide funding for the remaining 11 schemes which are to be executed at a cost of Rs1.7 billion. The ADB hinted at its approval since between $20 million and $22 million was left over from previous grants provided for other works.”

A total of 59 schemes — 38 in phase-I and 21 in phase-II — had finished while progress on the remaining 17 schemes was about 83 per cent and they would be finalised by June this year, added Mr Memon.

Meanwhile, official correspondence is under way between Sindh government’s planning and development department and the Economic Affairs Division (EAD), for getting 11 schemes of repairing major river dykes approved by the ADB, said a source, adding that the EAD was the relevant forum to approach the ADB.

The request would be forward the request to the ADB which would formally consider the request. But it is likely that the ADB would allow diversion of the amount saved from the previous loan, said the source. The final letter would be sent by the planning and development department, he said.

Concerns over quality of work

As the schemes await ADB funding, it seemed that the bank was taking care that the work completed was up to the standard. FERP project director Salman Memon claimed that local and ADB consultants had been checking the quality of work at rehabilitated river dykes. “They visit the sites before paying the contractors so there is no question of compromising the quality of works,” he said. “A proper check and balance system is in place.”

Since dykes protect population and vast farmlands located outside river banks, the growers are always concerned about their condition. In 2010, when there was extensive damage to standing rice crop in Upper Sindh, farmers had been crying hoarse against encroachments in riverbed which was the major obstacle in preventing the usual flow of floodwater.

The concern is shared by other stakeholders as well. Even the Sindh chief minister Qaim Ali Shah had expressed his displeasure last year over reports of corruption in duke repair works being done by the irrigation department and had called for stringent measures in this regard.

According to an official in the Sindh Irrigation and Drainage Authority (Sida), the required model studies were not conducted before beginning repair works. “These studies help determine the behaviour of Indus River… where it usually changes course. After that studies are conducted in a laboratory before finalising design of the dyke at that particular location,” said the source. Moreover, FERP’s steering committee’s neither met nor kept itself abreast of updates on the quality of works, the source added.

Meanwhile, the Sindh Abadgar Board (SAB) said that farmers’ bodies were not taken on board in this regard and complaints pertaining to sub-standard work on river dykes continued to be received. “We were not taken on board in this connection and no plans were shared with us by the government,” said SAB president Abdul Majeed Nizamani.

“Recently, a similar complaint was received from Bhanote area of Hala district, where soil from the dyke’s toe was used for compactness. This can be dangerous for the embankment since doing so weakens its foundation,” he said. “The farmers raised hue and cry and the problem was then resolved by the authorities.

On the other hand, Sindh irrigation secretary Babar Effendi remarked that a layman couldn’t understand the technicalities of such works though they were open for scrutiny. He said that farmers’ representatives were welcome to visit sites to observe the ongoing work for themselves. He said that even the initial cost of the project, PC-I was being revised since initial works had been executed at the rate of 2004 and now the rates schedule was not the same.

Referring to the statement made by Sida official that model studies were not carried out before beginning the repair work, FERP project director Salman Memon insisted that this was not true.

He said that model studies had definitely been conducted like that of Aqil Agani (in Larkana district) and a few other locations. “I remember a couple of such model studies conducted during works,” he said. “The soil obtained from the borrow pit (area from where earth is taken out for use in dykes) is always tested in a laboratory.”

According to Mr Memon, floodwater discharges recorded in 2010 ‘super flood’ at Guddu, Sukkur and Kotri barrages were used as benchmarks for raising the height of river dykes by six feet. Official water discharge recorded at Guddu was 1,189,000 cusecs, Sukkur 1,134,000 cusecs and Kotri 839,000 cusecs.

“So, if flood-fighting measures are in good shape and required arrangements made by the authorities, we would hopefully be able to safely handle water discharge of the same magnitude as in 2010 floods,” he claimed.

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