BADIN: Speakers at a conference on water crisis and its impacts on agriculture and ecology of the district held in Tarai town on Saturday urged authorities concerned to save Badin from further devastation and claimed that water of Kotri barrage was being diverted to the lands of feudal lords whose estates fell within catchment area of Sukkur barrage.

A water expert and environmentalist, Mir Ghulam Rasool Talpur, said at the moot organised by Save Badin Action Committee that it was sad the Sindh’s rulers had never bothered to improve agriculture and irrigation systems over the years and focused their attention only on irrigating their ever expanding farmlands by stopping water to the lands of small growers and farmers.

He claimed that water of Kotri barrage was being diverted to the lands of feudal lords that fell within the catchment area of Sukkur barrage by erecting blockages at Alipur regulator near Matli and other points. Unfortunately, Badin’s water was being flowed to the area where sub-soil water was also available and could be used for irrigating land, he said.

“It is sheer callousness and cruelty by rulers to deprive farmers of Badin of their due share in water when the province is getting its water share from the system,” he said.

He asked participants in the seminar to carry on their peaceful struggle for the future of their generations and warned that persisting water crisis together with sea intrusion would trigger unprecedented devastation in the area if all the waterways of the district were not supplied water on a regular basis.

Mr Talpur warned officials of Sindh Irrigation and Drainage Authority (Sida) and irrigation department not to turn entire Badin district into another Thar and said that prolonged water shortage in the area and its coastal belt was also causing the sea to devour more fertile land.

Taj Joyo, writer and critic, said that it was height of injustice to stop supply of water to a district, which was once very prosperous and its people were living comfortable and peaceful lives as the area produced quality rice, fruits and vegetables.

“Those who are at the helm of affairs in Sindh should administer justice to people, who are protesting peacefully for their due share in water for the past many months,” he said.

He held rulers responsible for the miserable plight of people and lauded the struggle launched by farmers and their supporters for their just rights.

Ali Bha, a grower and local historian, said that incompetent and callous rulers had no concern for the plight of people in the vast district who had not received water for the past nine months. “We are forced to dig wells in dried up beds of channels and consume the highly contaminated water,” he said.

Azizullah Dero, Khuda Dino Shah, Mir Noor Ahmed Talpur, Usman Rahukro, Nasarullah Jarwar, Ameer Azad Panhwar and other leaders of the committee also spoke at the conference.

Meanwhile, traders in Rajo Khanani town observed a shutdown strike on Saturday to show solidarity with the farmers of the area who were protesting against the nagging water shortage. They also joined the farmers’ sit-in on Matli road under scorching sun for four hours.

The protesters’ leaders Mir Ashiq Talpur, Mohammad Nizamani, Manzoor Loond and others accused Sida director Mir Ghulam Ali Talpur of creating the water crisis in the district by his indulgence in corruption and incompetence in distributing irrigation water.

“The director has completely mismanaged the irrigation system of the canals on the left bank of Kotri barrage and is supplying water only to those who are either greasing his palm or bringing pressure to bear on him,” they alleged.

They requested PPP leadership to order chief minister to immediately remove Mr Talpur, who according to them, was bringing bad name to the party.

They said that most of the participants in demonstrations and protests were PPP voters, who were facing the worst water crisis in years and demanded removal of blockages in canals and an end to releasing water into flood canals. They vowed to continue the protest till their demands were met.

In the course of the protest, a farmer Rashoro Kolhi tried to commit suicide to register his protest against water scarcity but he was saved by his colleagues.

Published in Dawn, May 20th, 2019