BADIN: The leaders of Save Badin Action Committee have accused officials of Sindh Irrigation and Drainage Authority and irrigation department of “misguiding” World Bank delegation about flows of water in Phuleli Canal and Akram Wah and availability of water in the canals’ tail ends.

If the government officials’ claims were right then why did they keep “genuine representatives” of farmers away from the visiting delegation, it was asked. “It was another farce staged by the officials of Sida and irrigation department to fool international donors, so they purposely kept local farmers in the dark about their visit,” they said in a joint press statement issued here on Monday.

They requested the WB high-ups to send experts’ teams to meet local farmers and growers to gain firsthand knowledge about their grievances and stop funding “controversial” projects in future under Water Sector Improvement Project (WSIP).

They lashed out at the officials for not inviting “genuine stakeholders” including lawmakers and journalists from Badin district to meet the WB delegation and accompany them to the sites of the bank-funded projects on Sunday.

The committee led by Mir Ghulam Rasool Talpur, Khalil Ahmed Bhurgari, Mir Noor Ahmed Talpur, Azizullah Dero and others was formed earlier this year to highlight the worst water crisis that hit the tail-end district mainly because of erection of blockages in Phuleli Canal at Alipur and 30-Mile regulators that diverted the canal’s water flows meant for Badin to the lands in the command area of Sukkur Barrage.

They said the government officials had invited their “favourite leaders” of farmers’ organisations, who were already hand in glove with them when the blockages were being built without taking genuine representatives of growers into confidence.

They termed the act as a cruel joke with those who had been striving with the support of people of the district for just distribution of water for their bare survival with no mala fide intention.

They outright rejected claims of both government officials and the so-called leaders of farmers’ organisations that water was distributed judiciously in the tail-end areas.

They claimed that “white lies” were told before the WB delegation regarding availability of water in the tail-end areas after erection of “Rs6 billion” worth blockages in Phuleli Canal.

They said that they took the matter to Sindh High Court two months back and the court formed a committee of experts of NED University directing them to visit the sites and submit a detailed report. They were waiting for the detailed report to be submitted to the court and for the announcement of judgement on their petition.

They said that thousands of people had struggled for more than eight months in every nook and corner of the district and beyond to get their due share in water. The tail-end areas were still facing the same conditions when rain brought some respite to the farmers.

The leaders said that they were once again mobilising farmers of the district to effectively register their protest against the proposed construction of Sindh barrage near Thatta and against rice millers’ reluctance to offer them fair price for the crop.

Published in Dawn, October 8th, 2019