DERA GHAZI KHAN: Provincial Finance Minister Mohsin Leghari has sought the project concept one (PC-I) of a comprehensive plan for the channelisation of hill torrents of the Sulaiman Range from the irrigation department to include the project in the next budget to avoid further disaster and meet the challenges of climate changes.

Mr Leghari told Dawn the provincial government wanted to initiate work on a comprehensive plan to tame the waters of hill torrents and had asked the secretary of irrigation to prepare the PC 1 of the comprehensive plan so that the provincial government could allocate funds for the yet-to-be conceived projects. There are 13 hill torrents in Dera Ghazi Khan and Rajanpur districts.

Once these mountain drains or hill torrents were the main sources of traditional irrigation systems based on the collective volunteer labour of the farmers of the arid zone of trans-Indus districts. With the passage of time, the farmers abandoned the traditional irrigation mode of ‘pachad’ or arid zone. They started to install water turbines and encroached on most of the natural paths leading toward the River Indus.

Mr Leghari said the foremost priority of any intervention would be to revive and improve the mountain drainage network in trans Indus districts.

In the foothills and ‘pachad’ area, there used to be traditional ‘wahs (water channels excavated by farmers)’ and ‘wakras (small dykes separating the fields)’ which were maintained by the local community work known as ‘kamara (collective community work)’.

There used to be a system overseen by the ‘darogha rodkohi (vigilance done by local elders)’, which imposed ‘tawaan (plenty)’ on the violators for not doing community service of their share.

Now, a modern drainage network by the irrigation department exists in the plains area, which consists of Old Manka, New Manka and Qutab Drain. There is a dire need to construct new drains, rehabilitate the existing drains, enhance their capacity and link them to the Indus River with a proper outfall structure.

Mr Leghari added at present there was no better safe passage to carry hill torrents of water towards the River Indus. The provincial finance minister, who is also a farmer of the ‘pachad’ zone, said that it was imperative to remove the hindrances to flow both in the “patched” as was done earlier by the community, and proper channelization to carry the waters to the Indus River. He suggested the revival of the traditional and natural paths for clear drainage passage to the Indus river and added dispersion structures to mitigate the momentum of gushing waters are also necessary.

He suggested small ponds wherever feasible to lessen the water that comes down with a destructive force. Regarding long-term solutions, he said, there is a need for mid-level dams, in the long run, to store water and develop a proper command area.

Talking to Dawn, progressive farmers, residents of the ‘pachad’ Akhtar Hassan Gorchani and Umer Waqas Ahmedani were of the opinion that management of natural resources has unfortunately been poor in Pakistan. Some institutions, including government agencies, have already developed such plans, particularly, after the 2010 floods, which could not be implemented even after the passage of 12 years.

“Now we have been knocked again in 2022 and this might be a final warning this time,” said Mr Gorchani, the former Intelligence Bureau chief.

“Our poor development approach and ill-planned infrastructure remained offensive intrusion and confrontation against historical water channels in the Sulaiman Range. Flood plan management is the immediate thing to start in Pakistan. This plan, if we succeed to do it, can turn water into the power that our country has already been short of. Another critical thing to do is to strengthen institutions (NDMA and PDMA) that has a responsibility to address such situation. They must adopt modern techniques and concepts of DRR: Disaster Risk Reduction.”

Mr Ahmedani calls the belt along and in between the Sulaiman Range and Indus River the “belt of Gold” in addition to being a “lifeline” for Pakistan.

He is right as the area that grows cash and staple food crops like cotton, wheat, rice and tobacco can be called the ‘lifeline of Pakistan’.

Published in Dawn, September 12th, 2022

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