LARKANA: Lifting of sand and gravel (reti bajri) from the bed of Rice Canal near Mahotta Regulator and New Bus Stand in Larkana on a large scale is causing considerable damage to the flood-protective bund built and strengthened several a times at a cost of millions of rupees.
The unlawful practice, going unnoticed on the part of the officials concerned, is also weakening the canal’s embankments.
Ironically, scores of trucks and tractor-driven trolleys are allowed into the area to lift sand and gravel and take away the consignments. Residents of the nearby areas, on whose distress calls in the wake of rain emergency the embankments and bund are strengthened, believe that some irrigation and other officials are hand in gloves with those running the business. They also believe that sand and gravel traders worked under the patronage of some politically influential figures of Larkana district.
The track used by these transport operators is a routine route of the engineers and other staff of irrigation department but they seem to have turned a blind eye to the movement of such consignments and never tried to get this unlawful activity stopped.
The stone-pitching work to strengthen the canal embankments and bund had last been carried out by the irrigation department after the 2010-11 super floods that had caused heavy damage to them. The floods had not only posed a serious threat to the nearby towns and villages, but also left the embankment and dyke weak.
The pressure always increases during abkalani period and when Indus is in flood situation.
The Sindh government had spent several billion rupees on a project, executed in the wake of the super floods, to strengthen embankments of Rice and Dadu canals to save many towns and hundreds of villages from flooding.
These canals are to get increased flows in the paddy-sowing season and, therefore, it is feared that the canals’ embankments weakened by the lifting of sand and gravel on a large scale may not withstand the pressure.
Local residents say that the dumpers and bulldozers were also being used by transport operators to pave the way for their tucks and tractor-driven trolleys. These heavy vehicles, they claim, were causing damage to the stone-pitched columns supporting embankments and dyke.
People living close to the regulator and bus stand appeared sick of such vehicles’ movement saying that atmosphere in their area mostly remains polluted with dust flying in the air during daytime. The worst-hit localities fall between Rice Canal bridge and Naudero van stand, they say. Another nuisance is herds of buffaloes usually driven into the canal. The animals pass considerable time enjoying a dip contaminating the water and also creating unhygienic conditions along its bed.
None of the irrigation officials, including engineers, appeared ready to comment on the situation. Some of them, however, claimed that some ‘higher authorities’ had allowed lifting of reti bajri. They also requested anonymity. They admitted that the transport operators on their own pitched the path leading to the canal bed in order to have a smooth ride for their vehicles.
Published in Dawn, March 24th, 2020