DADU: Flooding causing by a breach in the dyke of Johi branch (irrigation channel) near Khairpur Nathan Shah destroyed scores of thatched houses in seven villages, besides playing havoc with standing crops over hundreds of acres. A number of families living in some village close to the breach site, RD 67, had managed to move to safe places soon after it occurred on Saturday. Efforts were under way to shift many other marooned families to safe areas when the last reports came in late on Sunday evening.
The dyke at the RD-67 point, some 40 kilometres from Johi town, developed the breach when a few-foot portion of it was washed away due to strong pressure of water flowing in the channel. Residents of the nearby villages rushed to the site to plug the breach but they failed to mend the damaged potion owing to the water pressure and unavailability of heavy machinery, dumping material and adequate manpower. The affected villagers, moved out of the area along with their families fearing loss of life as gushing water had already widened the breach to around 40 feet by Saturday evening, aggravating the flooding.
After inundating around 400 acres of agricultural land with standing crop and ravaging three villages by Sunday morning, flooding hit four more villages by the evening as the irrigation officials concerned could not arrange for the required men and machinery soon after the breach had occurred. In the meantime, gushing water further widened the breach, to over 100 feet. Until the officials, along with men machinery, reached the breach site and started the work to mend it, flooding had already inundated more farmlands estimated to be around 500 acres and continued to pose threat to the areas ahead.
Marooned men, women and children were being shifted to safe places from Yousuf Naich, Khathri, Chutto Naich and Bilwal Khoso villages on Sunday evening. Reports from the affected areas suggested that 10 fish ponds were also destroyed and five link roads were inundated. Some of the affected families were moved to Khairpur Nathan Shah and Mehar towns.
Dadu irrigation department superintendent engineer Mohammed Nawaz Soomro and Johi branch executive engineer Abdul Ghani Qureshi were supervising the breach plugging work while the district administration provided transport means for the relief and rescue work.
Speaking to the media, Mr Soomro expressed the hope that the situation would come under control soon as water flow into the Johi branch had been sopped from the source to facilitate the plugging work. In reply to a question, he said it would take 24 hours (by Monday morning) to completely stop the flow at the breach site.
Meanwhile, the villagers after moving out of the affected areas held a demonstration at the Kakar-Khairpur Nathan Shah section of the Indus Highway and raised slogan against the government and irrigation department for their alleged failure in coming to their rescue on time. They said they suffered heavy losses due to the indifferent attitude. The flow of vehicular traffic on the highway remained suspended during the course of the protest.
Advisor to the CM on irrigation Babar Hussain Effendi on Sunday appointed Sukkur barrage chief engineer Nazar Hussain Mahar as the inquiry officer and asked him to collect facts about the cause of the breach and alleged delay in responding to the incident. The inquiry officer has been directed to submit his report along with recommendations for action against errant officials within two days.
Mr Effendi told the media that the officials concerned were also directed to complete the plugging work as soon as possible as closure of water in the Johi branch was bound to affect the tail-end growers if unnecessary delay was caused. The tail-end growers receiving water through the Patoro, Chejani, Chhini, Lakha and Noonari channels originating from Johi canal have been observing a hunger strike for the last 15 days over unavailability of water for their lands.
Pakistan Peoples Party MNA Imran Zafar Leghari has expressed his concern over the delay caused in closing water from the source soon after the breach had occurred. He said the authorities concerned should look into the lapse.
Senior PPP leader and former education minister Pir Mazharul Haq has also demanded urgent measures to deal with the situation observing that flooding was still threatening more areas.
The deputy commissioner and SSP of Dadu along with SHOs and personnel of the Khairpur Nathan Shah and Kakar police stations were present at the breach site to oversee the plugging, relief and rescue efforts.
Published in Dawn, October 31st, 2016