MIRPURKHAS: Labourers stumbled upon a 73-year-old US-made aluminium boat when they were busy cleaning the bed of West Jamrao canal of silt under a bridge with the help of excavators, 20 kilometres from here on Wednesday evening.
The boat was apparently part of a floating bridge used by the army’s engineers corps to prepare makeshift bridges on rivers and canals during wartime.
The registration plate still intact and affixed to the boat’s side, gives its owners name as Corps of Engineers, U.S. Army. It reads further: “Gross weight 1750 pounds, manufactured by Consolidated Builders Inc. Portland, Oregon, model No M4, dated Dec 23, 1944.”
An official of the irrigation department said on condition of anonymity that three such boats were employed by Pakistan army engineers when they were building a temporary bridge over the canal during the 1971 war preparations.
They took away two and left one behind, which was either sunk in the canal or displaced at that time. It might be that missing boat, he said, adding the future of the boat would be decided by higher authorities.
Sources in the irrigation department said the boat also suffered some damage when an excavator hit it and pulled it from beneath many layers of silt and slime. The work on desilting of the canal was going on under the project for lining the channel, said the sources.
Mirpurkhas irrigation subdivision SDO Ali Madad Parhyar said that he was busy supervising the lining work when he saw the excavators hitting the boat. He did not know the exact history of the boat, which was about 12 to 20 feet long and 4 to 5 feet wide, and only archaeological experts could determine its age, he said.
Besides being a significant discovery of historical import, the boat has also laid bare the truth of the desilting drives the department has been carrying out periodically for the past many decades. People believe if the department had honestly desilted the canal it would have turned up the boat much earlier.
APP adds: Nara Canal Area Water Board director Imtiaz Memon said the boat would be handed over to the department of archaeology.
Published in Dawn, March 17th, 2017