Every monsoon season brings painful memories for many residents of the upper-Sindh districts. Kashmore-Kandhkot, a small district, is one of them. If one talks about Pakistan’s super floods in 2010, it reminds the residents of the massive breach in the mighty Indus river in Kashmore that occurred downstream of the Guddu barrage.

Eleven years back the gushing waters of the Indus river breached Tori dyke in the Kandhkot taluka of the district on the night of August 6th, spelling disasters not only for Kashmore but other districts which were located on the right bank of Indus. Devastations caused by the single breach — until Aug 27, 2010, when the second breach occurred at Kot Almo, Thatta — caused large scale displacements of people from flood-affected districts and riverine areas after floodwaters touched two banks. Deaths and damages to properties were reported.

Internally displaced persons (IDPs) from the flood-hit districts who ended up in makeshift relief camps of Sindh were mostly left to fend for themselves for several months. Rice crops over several hundred of thousands of acres stood destroyed. It was a huge economic loss for the agriculture economy. The breach had occurred due to poor maintenance of dykes over the years. However, post super flood damages, the refurbishment work of dykes was launched in affected sites under the multi-billion rupees Flood Emergency Rehabilitation Project.

Kashmore with a population of around a million is an inter-provincial district, touching Dera Bugti of Balochistan in the north and Rajanpur of Punjab in the east. As a right bank district, it was part of the historic Jacobabad city before it was carved out as a separate district in Dec 2004 during the Musharraf regime. Kashmore is located on the proposed China Pakistan Economic Corridor route, making it important in the regional context.

Though the head of the irrigation system within Sindh, the people of Kashmore still decry the non-availability of water in Guddu barrage’s right canals which the provincial government attributes to the unfair interprovincial distribution of water by the Indus River System Authority

It has a strong tribal culture like Jacobabad, Shikarpur and few other districts. The noted tribes in Kashmore are Bijaranis, Jakhranis, Jagiranis, Sundhrani, Mazaris, Domki, Chachars, Teghani and Sabzois. People from these families actively participate in politics. They have a major share in agricultural landholdings.

Considered one of the least developed districts of Sindh, Kashmore is blessed with gas fields Kandhkot and Chachar, managed by Pakistan Petroleum Limited. “We don’t have enough roads and other civic amenities although our area is producing sizeable resources of gas, next we believe to Sui gas fields,” says Masood Soomro, a local journalist.

Mono-cropping is practiced in this district. Farmers grow rice in summer and wheat in winter. Smaller crops of vegetables including tomato, peas, cauliflower, okra, onion and rapeseed are cultivated on a small scale. Farmers mostly prefer hybrid variety. Cotton is grown neither in Jacobabad nor in Kashmore like some other right bank districts.

There is a distinction attached to the district. Kashmore serves as the site for the first mega-irrigation structure over Indus — Guddu Barrage. In fact, it is the head of the irrigation system within Sindh. Still, the people of Kashmore decry the non-availability of water in Guddu barrage’s right canals. The Sindh government attributes it to the unfair interprovincial distribution of water by the Indus River System Authority (Irsa), the country’s water regulator.

Irrigation water has become a political subject, says Sardar Shamsher Mazari. “It makes sense that those having land in the tail-end areas don’t get water. But people like us who are at the head of the irrigation system are not getting water either,” laments Mr Mazari, a resident of Guddu.

Guddu Barrage had started its operations in 1962, after the Sukkur barrage’s operation in 1932. Guddu is located about 117 miles below Panjnad, 59 miles below the confluence point at Kot Mithan and about 110 miles from Sukkur Barrage upstream. This barrage’s structure is designed to face a super flood discharge of 1.2 million cusecs with 65 gates.

The barrage caters to irrigation water needs of 3.346m acres (inclusive of Rainee canal’s command area which is not being irrigated currently) for agricultural purposes.

Two Sui gas pipelines cross through it, one below the gate bridge and the other at downstream pier nose, an irrigation document of the barrage says. The Sui gas line comes from the Sui fields and crosses over the barrage, linking up with the Multan-Sukkur line. One Mari gas pipe crosses over the barrage for supplying gas to the Guddu powerhouse.

The Guddu Barrage is part of the World Bank-funded $300m rehabilitation project — $160m were spent on the Guddu barrage for the replacement of its main gates and gates of the three main canals’ head regulators.

The project aims to improve the reliability and safety of the Guddu barrage and strengthen the Sindh irrigation department’s capacity to operate and manage the barrage. It supports the integrated operation and maintenance of three barrages in Sindh.

Kashmore is, however, credited with having Pakistan’s largest public-sector thermal power — Guddu. The good news from Kashmore is the construction of a 30.5km long bypass/bridge between Kandhkot and Ghotki by the Sindh government, costing Rs14bn. On completion in 2023, it will benefit the population of the two districts.

Currently, the distance between Kandhkot and Ghotki via Guddu Barrage is 151km and via Sukkur around 170km. The bridge connecting Ghotki and Kandhkot would reduce this distance to 30km approximately. It would reduce travel time and boost economic activity significantly in this region considering the fact that Ghotki has lately become the home of sugarcane cultivation and Kashmore is known as a rice-producing district.

Both districts, Ghotki and Khandkot, have the largest oil and gas fields, power projects and fertiliser plants in the country and serve as entry points into Sindh for all traffic coming from upcountry and heading for the port city of Karachi.

Published in Dawn, The Business and Finance Weekly, July 19th, 2021

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