FOOTPRINTS: WIPED FROM EXISTENCE

Published September 5, 2022
The last remaining visible structure in Basti Bakhowala, Mouza Kocha Kakari, is buried in at least six feet of sand and mud.
—Photo by the writer
The last remaining visible structure in Basti Bakhowala, Mouza Kocha Kakari, is buried in at least six feet of sand and mud. —Photo by the writer

Mouza Kocha Kakari — a settlement near the Kachhi Canal — was once home to 20 villages and rice fields stretching as far as the eye could see.

Today, it looks like a barren wasteland, with no traces left of the homes that once dotted the landscape.

As we make our way down the road from Kala Colony to Basti Gaadi, the road suddenly vanishes after crossing the Kachi Canal bridge. Any remnants of the road are now burried under sand, silt and sediment deposited by hill torrents that raged down from the Koh-i-Suleman mountains after record monsoon rains battered the area for weeks.

This road, which connects several villages to the Indus Highway, is piled with six to seven feet of sand and mud. Although flood water has dissipated, the landscape is still buried under metres of riverine deposits.

The sense of loss cannot be exaggerated here; imagine standing at the spot where your house once stood, but now there is nothing. The only remaining signs that a human settlement once existed here are the half buried upper stories and iron gates of a handful of concrete houses.

The road to Basti Gaadi was dotted with villages and settlements, but after travelling a few kilometres on the sand-covered terrain, we came across the remains of Basti Bakhowala, where the flood-hit population has set up a city of tents where hundreds of the displaced have found shelter.

There were 25 houses in Basti Bakhowala, but the only one still visible was a two-room house, buried up to the roshandaan in six to seven feet of sediment.

Karam Husain, in his 60s, was standing on the dunes of sand left behind by the floods. When we met him, he was trying to find a trace of where his home had been.

“There were 25 to 30 houses in the basti. There are 17 of us, and the whole family spent Aug 14 at home. But just two days later, it was gone; buried under the sand.”

In pictures: Devastating floods affect millions in Pakistan

He said the level of destruction they witnessed was unprecedented in living memory.

“In my 60 years, I have never witnessed flood damage to our house. Even the stories my father told me had nothing to compare with this catastrophe.”

It was a similar story in Basti Ghaziwala just down the road, where nearly 40 homes vanished from existence, gobbled up by elements.

Travelling further down this road is perilous as it is filled with yawning trenches. Sections of the concrete thoroughfare have disappeared, making it tough going for travellers. It is the same story for village after village.

On the road to Taunsa, north of Kala Colony, two to three feet of standing water still remains. The villages of Mangrotha and Sokar were quite badly hit; the latter saw at least 400 of its total 600 residences damaged beyond repair. Most locals are now forced to spend their nights in the collapsed shells of their homes.

The locality also has a primary and middle school, which were also badly damaged — their boundary walls knocked down and the building riddled with cracks.

Here, we encountered a woman waving her NIC around, calling to every passer-by that she was a widow and should be registered for flood compensation.

She said the locals, government and NGOs had given her enough food for daily use, but she did not have a place to save these items as half of her house had collapsed and she was living in the damaged portion.

“I did not need any food at this time but the government should help us rebuild our house, as winter is approaching and my family would have to live under the open sky,” she said.

Mangrotha was inundated by water from the Sanghar drain, and nearly a third of the town was gone, wiped from existence. Locals said that the flood washed away around 270 houses, while others were quite badly damaged.

Umar Buzdar, a resident of the town, told Dawn this was one of the biggest settlements in Taunsa and was situated in a low-lying area.

He said that more than a 1,000 of people were now homeless, either living with relatives in nearby areas, or camped out in the local school building.

Published in Dawn, September 5th, 2022

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