LARKANA: Larkana and Qambar-Shahdadkot districts and adjoining areas are still reeling from Wednesday’s freak weather event involving fierce rain and hailstorm, which not only led to power outages but also severely damaged crops.
“We are trapped unprepared. Rains and hailstones have not only adversely affected the harvested wheat crop but also the tomato crop and mango trees,” said Irfan Jatoi, the president of Sindh Abadgar Board’s (SAB) Larkana district, told Dawn.
The calamity struck at a time when the heatwave has already halved per-acre wheat yields to 20 to 25 maunds, with one maund equalling around 37.3kg, growers said.
They said the situation warranted the government’s attention, especially against the backdrop of climate change.
On Wednesday, the local Met office recorded 37 millimetres of rain with north-westerly winds. The hailstorm and heavy rain continued for about half an hour, causing inundation in low-lying areas in Larkana city.
Thunderstorms and strong winds were also reported from Moenjodaro. In Larkana, municipal workers could not pump out the water immediately because of electricity suspension, which added to residents’ woes.
Wheat crop affected
Mr Jatoi said the departments concerned, especially the Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA), should prepare in advance to deal with such events in future due to a change in the global weather system.
Around 40pc of harvested wheat crop lying in the fields was affected, he said, stressing that farmers should now concentrate on crop rotation to mitigate the negative impacts of weather change.
Besides, the government should seriously look into the situation to save the agricultural sector and the population depending on it, he said.
He said the PDMA had not issued any warning about the situation, and the farmers had to face hailstorms and heavy rains unprepared. He feared a staple food shortage in the coming days if both people and the government failed to address the climate change issue.
In Larkana alone, the wheat crop is cultivated on 200,000 acres which, according to SAB, had shrunk to half. In 2021, the annual production of wheat in Sindh was recorded at 3.8 million tonnes against the expected yield of 4.2m to 4.8m tonnes.
He said heatwaves and climate change should be the focus of the government’s agriculture policy to protect the farm sector from global changes affecting vital crops.
Disaster in making
Commenting on the post-rain situation in Qambar-Shahdadkot, progressive grower and former SAB district president Ishaq Mughiri told Dawn that the uninterrupted flow of highly contaminated water coming into this district from Balochistan had already ruined hundreds and thousands of acres of fertile land meant for wheat cultivation.
While growers had already transported 75pc of the harvested wheat to the market from the Qubo Saeed Khan taluka, the remaining produce lying in the fields was severely affected in the wake of Wednesday’s rains and hailstorm.
Besides, tomato crops, watermelon plants and animal fodder were also affected in the district. When asked about the role of PDMA, he said in a sarcastic tone: “I’ve just heard its name.”
He feared that the situation would have a severe economic impact on the agricultural sector, as the livelihoods of most residents depended on it.
He called for activating the PDMA and highlighted the need to educate people linked to agriculture to switch over to modern technologies that could sustain the impact of weather changes. If things remained unattended, “it will be a disaster in the making”, Mr Mughiri said.
Sources said Larkana had no PDMA office and was currently being looked after from Sukkur, where the staff routinely asked for reports from the deputy commissioner’s office in case something falls in its domain.
Shuaib Umrani, a senior citizen and a mountain trekker, said he had not witnessed such a downpour and violent hailstorm in his life. Trees and electricity poles were uprooted, billboards fell down and power was cut off.
“We should seriously focus on the climate change issue and make arrangements to cope with the situation,” he said.
Published in Dawn, April 23rd, 2022