Marooned people undertake digging of drains in Sindhri

Published September 26, 2022
A DESERTED village surrounded by floodwaters in Sindhri.—Dawn
A DESERTED village surrounded by floodwaters in Sindhri.—Dawn

MIRPURKHAS: After realising that the provincial government is not going to take any anti-flooding measures in Sindhri – the largest taluka of Mirpurkhas district with nearly 240,000 population spread over hundreds of villages, besides Sindhri town –, the marooned people on Sunday volunteered to undertake the gigantic task of dewatering the area on their own.

The taluka had become one of the worst-hit areas when the district experienced 36 hours of constant downpour on Aug 17 and 18. The rainfall caused heavy flooding and the situation aggravated with deluges from Sanghar district making their way into the taluka in the following days while intermittent heavy to moderate rainfall continued to lash the district and other parts of the province for the next few weeks. Due to unavailability of any stormwater drain in the taluka, several feet high floodwaters have been standing since then.

Hundreds of marooned families had already moved out of their villages to save their lives. However, hundreds others did not have any means of transport available to them to leave their areas. After losing hope for help from Sindh government, they sought permission from Mirpurkhas Commissioner Syed Aijaz Ali Shah to undertake the dewatering task.

The commissioner accordingly asked the revenue department to let them start the work but it could provide only two excavators against the requirement of 15.

After losing hope for govt’s help, they start work with two excavators given by revenue dept

Influential figures resist dewatering

Local people said certain influential figures had been resisting their efforts to seek government’s help in dewatering the area. Such figures’ lands in the neighbouring taluka have been less affected by floods and they fear that the discharged flows will ultimately flow into their area and destroy their lands and crops, according to the marooned people.

The volunteer force plans to dig up drains and also carry out desilting of irrigation channels across the taluka to facilitate floodwaters’ flows towards far away outlets of the Left Bank Outfall Drain.

A team of local journalists visited different sites, including Sindhri Chowk, Hingorno, Phuladyyoon, Punhal Khan Marri and Sher Khan Marri, where local people were busy digging drains manually and with the help of the two excavator provided to them. At a site near Punhal Khan Marri village, desilting of an irrigation channel was under way. At some other sites, they were seen creating dykes to prevent water level in nearby villages to rise further. Most villages have been surrounded by three to four feet high water and it was feared that the level would go up due to inflows from upper areas.

IDPs’ huts along roads

Several thousand people who have migrated from different villages of Shindhi taluka have been living in their makeshift huts set up along the main roads and dry pieces of land on the outskirts of Shindhri and some other towns.

The team of journalists asked some of them at one such makeshift settlement whether they were getting food, water or other relief goods. Their answer appeared quite interesting: “Not from government or any of its agencies; but groups of volunteers appear all of a sudden daily to give us food, water and some essentially required items and leave. They request us not to ask questions or disclose about their relief activities to anyone”.

The team also spoke to Mir Mohammad Marri, a district council member belonging to the Pakistan Peoples Party, in Punhal Khan Marri village. He appeared extremely disappointed by the government’s indifference to his repeated requests for anti-flood measures over the last few years.

He was elected as an independent candidate and later joined the PPP.

“I had taken up the issue of unavailability of drains in Sindhri taluka during rains about two years ago. I had suggested laying of a small drain and connecting it to the Left Bank Outfall Drain. The irrigation department never considered the idea over the years,” he said.

He pointed out that even after witnessing devastation on such a large scale, the department could provide only two excavators. “At least 15 excavators are required to lay drains and clear other waterways across Sindhri,” he said, and expressed doubt that the dewatering task could be accomplished within a few weeks without more machinery.

Mr Marri endorsed the local people’s claim that big landowners were resisting laying of new drains. “They even did not oblige the deputy commissioner when he requested them to agree on the dewatering operation,” said Mr Marri.

Published in Dawn, September 26th, 2022

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