SAHIWAL: Around 6,000 residents of five villages located on the southern downstream side are threatened by fast erosion of their agricultural land by the Ravi.
Villagers of Qutab Shahana, Thatha Purbana, Mauza Lurkay, Dola Zarain and Mauza Nathu Wasli claimed the newly built Qutab Shahana Bridge had changed river flow and was hitting their land hard located on the left side of the river.
They feared if the upcoming monsoon was as severe as the previous year’s, the river will damage agricultural land, property and lives of five villages.
“Already 600 acres have been eaten up by the river after construction of the bridge,” Rana Arif, a patwari, told Dawn.
The Qutab Shahana bridge was constructed recently with Rs1.63 billion to connect Faisalabad and Sahiwal by reducing 40km between the two cities. The bridge had not been officially inaugurated as work was in progress on connecting the roads on southern and northern sides of the Ravi.
Villagers said because of construction of the bridge at Aurangabad, river water had changed its course and had been fast eroding agricultural land on the southern side for a year.
“Over 600 acres of Qutab Shahana and surrounding localities have already gone into the Ravi during the last two years,” village Lumberdar Zawar Shah told Dawn.
Ravi flowed in a zig-zag direction and had a history of severely affecting land by eroding localities on the southern bank (Sahiwal district) that was lower than the northern bank (Faisalabad district).
Sources told Dawn that during the past year, residents of the five villages under threat had lodged their protests with the commissioner and the district coordination office for construction of an embankment at Qutab Shahana. Both officials had allegedly sent recommendations to provincial high-ups.
This correspondent visited Qutab Shahana, Mauza Lurkay and Thatha Purbana and met several villagers on the river bank. Wali Muhammad, Muhammad Ali Arain, Amanat Arain, Nourang Ali and Lashkar Ali had lost 10, 20, five, 10 and 20 acres in the last one year, respectively.
Dawn learnt from sources that due to residents’ pressure, the local irrigation department conducted a river survey from Mari Pattan to Shaikh Tayyab following the chief minster’s direction in December last year and proposed measures, a copy of which was available with Dawn.
This correspondent witnessed erosion of agricultural land in Qutab Shahana and Mauza Lurkay. If no spur or embankment was constructed, Government Elementary Girls School, Government Boys Primary School and a basic health unit just 100 yards from the river were under threat of erosion.
Villagers had also invited local representatives PML-N MPA Malik Arshad and MNA Pir Imran Shah to the village to see how grave the situation was.
The MPA told Dawn the Punjab government would provide funds for the construction of a guide spur at Qutab Shahana and surrounding localities.
“Construction of the new bridge has increased threat of erosion to five villages because of change in river flow,” he added. “This is my constituency and I will utilise my discretionary funds for construction of an embankment.”
A proposal had been lying with the chief secretary for developing an embankment.
A senior irrigation employee told Dawn on anonymity that an earlier proposal suggested a bridge be constructed at Qutab Shahana but was later shifted to the eastern side near Aurangabad village.
“This change also changed the river water flow and now it has hit hard the southern side after flowing under the bridge,” he added.
Published in Dawn, June 16th, 2015