The 2022 floods made the non-existing or dysfunctional drainage network quite evident across Sindh, from Sehwan to Khairpur or Hyderabad to Jhuddo and Badin.
According to Sindh’s chief minister, flooding from Balochistan, 120 million acre-feet of floodwaters equal to the capacity of multiple Tarbela dams entered Sindh, spelling disaster for the right bank districts in upper Sindh. The drainage factor has contributed to the miseries of people.
Such a quantum of water was indeed a difficult proposition to manage. But this perhaps can not be an excuse that the otherwise much-needed drainage network was not in better shape. Irrigation officers informed the Sindh chief minister at the Oct 12 meeting that at least 40 days were still needed to dewater areas.
Devastating floods caused colossal monetary losses to Sindh in terms of infrastructure, agriculture and livestock, irrigation network, life, property etc, besides massive displacement and the burden of disease. The economic value of Kharif crops was assessed at Rs500 billion by an independent farmers’ body, Sindh Abadgar Board (SAB).
The lack of a drainage network caused flooding in areas where water is standing; it has receded wherever drainage exists
Large swathes of land in both left and right bank areas are still facing inundation whilst authorities struggle to drain water. Upcoming cultivation of wheat sowing, which is just around the corner in areas like Jhuddo, Tando Jan Mohammad and Kot Ghulam Mohammad of Mirpurkhas district, seems not possible.
Super floods in 2010 hit the right bank districts alone after a massive breach in the Tori dyke of the Indus river upstream of the Guddu barrage. The 2011 torrential rain caused massive destruction to infrastructure and farmlands. But 23 districts were equally affected this time around in the left and right bank areas.
The Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda) and Sindh irrigation officials attribute flooding in Qambar-Shahdadkot, Larkana, Jacobabad, Dadu and Sehwan to floodwaters coming from Balochistan. Left bank Mirpurkhas, Nawabshah, Naushahro Feroz, Matiari, Sanghar and Khairpur districts are still inundated, being attributed to the encroachment of old courses of water. Their revival eludes them.
A network of drains in the Left Bank Outfall Drain (LBOD) system is the primary source of drainage of water for the Nawabshah, Sanghar, Mirpurkhas and Badin districts. LBOD’s spinal drain takes separate routes, namely Dhoro Puran Outfall Drain (DPOD) and Kadhan Pateji Outfall Drain (KPOD) in Badin.
“Spinal carried the flow of around 11,000 cusecs against the capacity of 4,600 cusecs during rain. So areas from Jhuddo to Kot Ghulam Mohammad or Tando Jan Mohammad in Miprurkhas [where early sowing and harvesting of wheat take place] are to be dewatered through spinal eventually,” said chief engineer irrigation development region-II Zarif Iqbal Khero.
Two breaches at Puran Dhoro’s RD-7 and RD-8 were reported on August 27-28 at midnight. One of them was plugged in, while the second took considerable time and could not be fully plugged, even after 45 days. Resultant water flowed from breaches inundated several parts of Tando Bago in Badin, leading to an outcry from people for a ‘controlled cut’ at RD-211 of Puran Dhoro to enable flows to take their natural route.
A reciprocal protest was seen by those resisting and opposing this controlled cut. They were mainly people from Tharparkar but said to be politically influenced as some bigwigs from Tharparkar were cultivating cash crops on the old course of dhoro, so they were opposed to the ‘cut’.
“An integrated drainage work remains a far cry in [Indus river’s] left bank areas,” said Ehsan Leghari, who served as managing director of Sindh Irrigation Drainage Authority (SIDA) during 2011 flooding triggered by torrential rains in left bank areas under SIDA’s jurisdiction.
The World Bank-funded Sindh Water Sector Improvement Project (WSIP) of SIDA got a study, namely “regional master plan for the left bank of river Indus, Delta and coastal zone’” conducted by international consultant Louis Berger in 2013. The document showed various projects mentioned in the study were to be executed by SIDA.
“After the 2011 rain, drainage work, including LBOD, was taken out of SIDA’s domain and handed over to the irrigation department, which was an overall mishandling of the drainage issue. The study’s works worth Rs42bn were delayed for want of funding. It can come from international donors alone,” Mr Khero argued.
The Sindh irrigation system is neither controlled fully by SIDA nor the irrigation department. While SIDA managed Sukkur barrage’s Nara and Ghotki feeder canals’ command, their drainage was looked after by the irrigation department. SIDA doesn’t intervene in the right bank areas as the irrigation department rules the roost there.
“Works identified in the master plan’s study are now being taken in hand. Tendering has been done, and works at an estimated cost of Rs8bn are being executed”, informed Mr Khero. These works would ensure underpasses and diversion to do away with all obstructions caused during LBOD’s construction (by Wapda), he said.
Ehsan Leghari, the sitting project coordinator in Planning & Development, lauded the work mentioned above but hastened to add that third-party supervision in procurement management of such works would ensure higher transparency.
“Sindh government’s statement says the drainage network was lying dysfunctional and was activated after the flooding. We won’t go into conspiracy theories about why Manchhar’s water was not emptied in the Indus river that had lower flows,” argued Mahmood Nawaz Shah, SAB’s vice president. The lack of a drainage network was the root cause of flooding in areas where water was standing. “Water has receded wherever drainage exists,” he said.
Published in Dawn, The Business and Finance Weekly, October 17th, 2022