DADU: Irrigation Secretary Rafique Ahmed Buriro, who had established a week-long camp in Dadu, Sehwan and Johi to supervise an operation against water thieves in the district, has asked for Rangers’ help in stopping politically influential big landowners from taking away other growers’ share in irrigation water.

“During the week-long operation, widespread complaints of water theft were detected and several hundred illegally-fitted pipes, pumping machines and modules were removed to ensure flow of water till the tail-end areas. However, certain politically influential landowners would bring in pumping machines and resort to stealing water as soon as the raiding teams move out of their areas,” a dejected secretary told this reporter after winding up the camp on Saturday.

During his campaign, Mr Buriro visited various installations and spots from where water was being diverted to different landowners’ fields through illegal means. He also spoke to a large number of growers affected by such practices.

He observed that water theft in the district was on a large scale and the irrigation teams working under his supervision removed illegal diversion pipes, direct outlets (DOs), pumping machines etc from along several hundred kilometres of canals and watercourses to ensure flow of water till the tail-end areas without any blockage.

Achievements in week-long operation are being nullified, says official

He expressed his dismay over failure of the operation saying that once the irrigation teams would leave an area, politically influential landowners would bring in their machines again to undo the corrective measures.

“Although, our teams are continuing the operations, it seems impossible to achieve the desired results unless these bigwigs were made to stop indulging in illegal practices,” he said.

He pointed out that the teams comprised senior officials including Sukkur Barrage chief engineer Irshad Ahmed Memon, superintendent engineer of irrigation department Sajid Ali Bhutto, Dadu Deputy Commissioner Raja Shahzaman Khuhro, Additional DC Nazeer Ahmed Soomro and SSP Dr Farrukh Raza Malik.

The team paid surprise visits to specified spots along Johi canal and inspected its head to the tail-end areas and took appropriate action wherever water theft was under way. He said law would take its course against the culprits.

The irrigation secretary said he had now recommended to the government to deploy Rangers personnel along the canals and the watercourses off-taking from them across the district in order to prevent these unscrupulous elements from indulging in water theft again.

“The irrigation department doesn’t have a force strong enough to deal with certain influential figures on the spot”, he argued, and said he himself would write to the Sindh Rangers director general for the required support and cooperation with the provincial government’s approval.

He said he was confident that the desired cooperation would be extended to the department within the next few days.

“It is my priority to ensure water supply till the tail-end areas of all canals. It’s the prime responsibility of the government too,” added the secretary.

In reply to a question, he said that as much as 747 cusecs was recorded flowing in Johi Canal from the source, Dadu canal. Even then, the tail-end growers were not getting any water, he wondered. “This a challenge to the authorities,” he said, and pointed out that water theft was causing damage to thousands of acres of land, besides causing heavy losses to the affected growers and the provincial agriculture sector.

The secretary said that through the pukka channel lift system, 180 cusecs and through Danister lift scheme 300 cusecs were being supplied to the tail-end areas of Dadu canal.

He directed the local officials to ensure completion of the solar system scheme converting the pukka channel lift scheme from power to solar system to continue supply of water to tail end of Dadu canal without any disturbance.

The irrigation secretary said that he had also directed the officials concerned to ensure supply to the highly-polluted Manchhar Lake in order to get its water purified.

Sukkur Barrage chief engineer Irshad Ali Memon said that the 20 illegal pipes and 15 lifting machines were removed during the operation and action was taken against those who had tampered with modules at 145 spots.

The Johi irrigation engineer recalled that complaints were lodged against two influential political figures recently at the Johi police station and more such elements would be booked soon.

The Sehwan irrigation engineer said cases were lodged at the Bhan Syedabad and Sehwan police stations against five political figures for stealing water from Bhambha and Daim watercourses.

Published in Dawn, July 26th, 2020

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