BADIN: Save Badin Action Committee leaders have accused officials of Sindh Irrigation and Drainage Authority (Sida) and irrigation department of taking only cosmetic steps to buy time and making no serious attempt to resolve perennial water crisis in lower Sindh and mitigate unending suffering of farmers.

Mir Noor Ahmed Talpur, Khalil Ahmed Bhurgari, Mir Ghulam Rasool Talpur and other leaders told journalists here on Monday that ‘mafias’, who had deprived them of their share in water since erection of blockages in Phuleli Canal, were free to this day to commit banditry on their share despite persistent water shortage in tail-end areas of the district.

They lashed out at officials of both the departments for taking no step to remove blockages erected in the canal to divert water flows to the lands that fell within command area of Sukkur Barrage and were owned by influential landlords.

The ministers and high-ups of both departments, who were responsible for just distribution of water, were misleading poor farmers with claims that various schemes had been undertaken to improve water flows in canals while in reality no sustainable plans were being made to resolve lower Sindh farmers’ problems and end unrest among them.

They requested officers concerned of Sindh government not to add insult to injury by issuing irresponsible statements on current water crisis and its worst impact on farm sector in their areas.

They believed that farmers of Badin district would not be able to get their due share in water as long there existed three big blockages in Phuleli. The officials, who had had the blockages built by spending huge funds of around Rs6 billion of public money, were still at the helm of affairs in the departments and were busy in safeguarding interests of “real thieves” of their water share, they said.

They said that instead of addressing core issues the officials concerned were only beating about the bush, merely a gimmick to buy more time. Under a conspiracy the officials were flouting orders of a double bench of Sindh High Court, Hyderabad circuit, which had directed the government in September last year to form a committee to assess damage to lands caused by water shortage in tail-end areas, they said.

The court had issued the directive on their petition against water crisis in the district which was mainly caused by erection of blockages in canals but since then the high functionaries of Sindh government were creating obstacles to the formation of the committee, they said.

The leaders alleged that during their recent visits to regulators the provincial minister and Sida officials did not bother to meet “real representatives” of farmers, who were on roads protesting against water shortage. Instead, they made a mockery of their concerns by failing to take any corrective measures for uninterrupted supply of water in Phuleli, Akram Wah canals and other channels.

They deplored that people living in tail-end areas particularly in devastated coastal belt were once again facing acute water shortage even for drinking. They requested non-governmental organisations to visit the coastal belt to assess massive damage caused by water shortage.

They warned the officials to mend their ways and said they would resist any move to create differences in their ranks. They were ready to sit with officials and lawmakers of the area if they showed flexibility on removal of blockages from canals for uninterrupted flow of water.

The leaders said that they were united to foil possible attempts by functionaries to pit farmers whose lands were irrigated by Phuleli Canal against those of Akram Wah in order to divert attention away from the original problem.

They warned they were prepared to resume protest movement across the district and other towns of the province to get their rightful share in water before the onset of Kharif season.

Published in Dawn, February 11th, 2020