Floodwaters threaten vestiges of Sindh’s past

Published August 31, 2022
(CLOCKWISE) A view of the collapsed section of the ‘Great Wall of Sindh’ at Ranikot’s Sann Gate; ramparts of the Kot Diji fort have given way in the face of heavy rains; a tarpaulin covers the ‘Mound of the Dead’ at Moenjo Daro; and, the rain-spoilt exterior of the White Fort.— Courtesy Hamid Akhund / Dawn
(CLOCKWISE) A view of the collapsed section of the ‘Great Wall of Sindh’ at Ranikot’s Sann Gate; ramparts of the Kot Diji fort have given way in the face of heavy rains; a tarpaulin covers the ‘Mound of the Dead’ at Moenjo Daro; and, the rain-spoilt exterior of the White Fort.— Courtesy Hamid Akhund / Dawn

KARACHI: The Mound of the Dead, one of Moenjo Daro’s most iconic features, is covered in blue tarpaulin. The torrential rains that have left most of Sindh inundated have not spared these ruins either, and workers scramble to reinforce the retaining wall of the mound as water seeps down into the unexcavated parts of the site, carving channels as it goes.

While the government and welfare organisations battle to provide relief and rehabilitate the hundreds of thousands left homeless by the savage monsoon downpours, heritage and archaeological sites across the province are also in dire need of repair.

Reports emanating from various parts of the province paint a pretty bleak picture; the very forts, tombs and autaqs etc which symbolise the glorious past of the region are now in danger of crumbling.

At Moenjo Daro alone, the rains have damaged excavated areas and exposed the ones buried underneath by creating furrows in them. The accumulated water has seeped into the excavated areas, loosening the soil and resultantly tilting the walls. This site, among the primary surviving bastions of the Indus Valley civilization as it dates back to 2,500BC, is one of the last remaining connections Pakistan has with prehistory.

Iconic sites such as Moenjo Daro, Kot Diji, Ranikot suffer widespread damage; trust official laments govt inaction

In Larkana, which saw some of the heaviest downpours in the region, the Shah Baharo and Tajjar buildings are covered in rainwater overflowing from drainage and sewage lines in the city centre. But it is the Mian Noor Mohammad Kalhoro graveyard (in Moro) that has, arguably, suffered the most. Here, several graves, including six tombs, have completely vanished and the condition of many others has deteriorated severely. The walls of those that do stand have caved in.

Apart from that, the Buddhist stupa at Thul Mir Rukan has fallen victim to the inclement weather as its drum has been broken. The floods have not spared the famous Makli monuments in Thatta and Banbhore either — both internationally renowned archeological sites.

Talking about the seriousness of the issue, Hamid Akhund, who is secretary of the Endowment Fund Trust (EFT) for the Preservation of Heritage of Sindh, told Dawn on Tuesday that the damage is “on a massive scale”.

“Whatever we have restored has been damaged. There is not a single place left in Sindh where heritage remains intact; be it Kot Diji, Ranikot, Shahi Mahal, White Palace, Faiz Mahal, the historic imam bargahs, bungalows or public dispensaries.”

According to Mr Akhund, Kot Diji — often considered the strongest of the ancient fortifications in the region — has all but collapsed, as have the walls of Ranikot.

“We do not know what is happening in Thar. There is four to five feet of stagnant water in Kot Diji. The entire heritage area of the province is turning into Moenjo Daro, and the government is not moved,” he said.

Mr Akhund lamented that while the provincial Culture Department spends mammoth amounts on a variety of events, but not a single delegation has visited these sites, so far.

He suggested that rather than organising musical programmes, those funds should be diverted to save Sindh’s heritage and its monuments.

Published in Dawn, August 31st, 2022

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