BADIN: Leaders of the Save Badin Action Committee have threatened to resume the protest movement across the district against functionaries of Sindh Irrigation and Drainage Authority (Sida) and irrigation department for their failure to ensure fair distribution of water in tail-end areas of the water-starved district.

Mir Noor Ahmed Talpur, Khalil Ahmed Bhurgari, Mir Ghulam Rasool Talpur and other growers, who had formed the committee last year to agitate against severe water crisis in the district, told journalists here on Sunday that the functionaries were least concerned about growers’ plight and they continued to divert water flows of their share to the lands of influential landlords falling in the command area of Sukkur barrage with complete impunity.

They said that the prevailing situation had forced them to resume the resistance and they had decided to mobilise farmers after they had learnt that the officers were only trying to buy time and they had no intention to do anything to mitigate their suffering.

They said the irrigation canals fed by Kotri barrage were closed for 12 days on Dec 25 for annual repairs, desilting and reconstruction of damaged, weak and breached dykes of irrigation outlets but no work had so far been carried out in any area of Badin district.

They said the tail-end areas had not got water even for drinking purposes after the annual closure ended many days back and demanded a thorough probe into malpractices by the officials of both the departments in the name of desilting and repairs of canals.

The leaders deplored that chief secretary did not bother to form a five-member committee within three months in accordance with orders of double bench of the Sindh High Court Hyderabad.

They said the double bench had ordered the chief secretary to form the committee on Sept 8 to probe the growers’ complaints about blockages and other hindrances in water flows and furnish a detailed report within next three months for further proceedings.

They said that they had filed a contempt petition against it in high court and disclosed that the committee had finally been formed and two of its members had recently had a meeting with growers’ leaders. They assured them that they were busy seeking a ‘out of box’ solution to ensure just water distribution and resolve the issue of blockages in Phuleli Canal, they said.

“The committee chairman Mansoor Memon and Ikramullah Quraishi came to meet us in Sida office in Hyderabad a few days back but three members of NED as well as the officials of Sida and irrigation did not bother to attend the first meeting which had been convened after eight months to hear growers’ grievances,” they said.

They deplored that they were once again ignored by the officials concerned who kept them away from their meetings with a delegation of World Bank who visited sites of controversial projects of blockages and other points in canals.

The Sida and irrigation officials had obtained a loan of Rs6 billion from World Bank to erect the blockages under Water Sector Improvement Project to deprive lands in Badin district of their due share in water.

They demanded the officials of World Bank stop lending money for such anti-people projects and requested the bank officers to meet farmers’ representatives who were seriously affected by such projects.

The leaders stressed that tail-end areas of the entire district would never get their due share in water in the next kharif season as long as the blockages existed in the canals.

They deplored the fact that the tail-end growers could not get adequate yield of their crops including rice last year because of severe water shortage. The illegal and unethical practice to deprive thousands of landowners of water was creating a sense of deprivation among the farming community, they said.

They urged lawmakers from Badin to join their movement so that all the farmers and growers could get their due share in water.

Published in Dawn, January 13th, 2020