MUZAFFARGARH: Tail-end farmers on Wednesday staged a demonstration in protest against non-availability of Muzaffargarh Canal’s water for sowing cotton crop, accusing irrigation officials of patronising water theft in the area.

Scores of farmers of Kot Addu and Muzaffargarh tehsils gathered in front of local irrigation offices and chanted slogans against the officials, accusing them of involvement in irrigation water theft.

The protesting farmers of lower Koti Wah, Jakhiri and Rafique minors alleged that first the department delayed release of water in the canal by a month and then took no measures to ensure supply to the tail-end growers. They said because of that they could not grow the crop in time.

Farmers Riaz Hussain and Khadim Hussain said they had met with the executive engineer concerned many times and brought the issue into his knowledge but to no avail.

They added that they also sent applications to Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif seeking stern action against inefficient and corrupt irrigation officials responsible for depriving them of the canal water.

Many farmers accused sub-engineers and overseers of patronising water theft. They alleged that in connivance with these officials influential land owners had installed double mogas (water discharge outlets) along the water channels to steal water, depriving the tail-end farmers of their share.

They said this season they had been hoping for good profits from their cotton crop as the agriculture department had given them price incentive and tips, besides promising better price for cotton. The department had also imposed Section 144 to check early sowing in October and February, they added.

But, they deplored, that because of inefficiency and corruption of irrigation officials the tail-end farmers were not getting water for the crop.

Kot Addu irrigation EXEN Saifullah Bhatti expressed his helplessness to act against influential land owners involved in water theft, saying even if he initiate any legal action, the police won’t cooperate with the irrigation officials.

He said 5,000 cusec water was earlier released in the Muzaffargarh Canal and that 2000 cusecs more would be released in the next week to provide relief to the tail-end farmers.

He claimed half a dozen cases had already been registered against those involved in water theft. He admitted that he had received many complaints about illegal and double mogas, promising he would “soon” take action against the culprits.

Agriculture Deputy Director Mehr Abid said this season the growers in the district had cultivated cotton over more than 400,000 acres. He said though the weather was good for sowing, many tail-end farmers could not cultivate the crop on time because of canal water scarcity.

Published in Dawn, May 18th, 2017