RAHIM YAR KHAN: More than 100 villages in Liaqatpur tehsil have been waterlogged and under-salinised for the last 15 years due to the closure of the 3-R Drain.
The drain started in 2008 to reduce the water seepage from the Abbasia Link Canal, which was laid parallel to the left bank of Abbasia Canal in 1985 to irrigate 70,000 acres in the eastern belt of Rahim Yar Khan, including Cholistan.
Although the link canal benefited thousands of acres in the eastern belt and Cholistan, it increased the level of subsoil water, causing waterlogging and salinity in the area.
According to former MPA Islam Aslam, the 3-R Drain was approved in 2009 to control waterlogging and salinity in more than 100 villages. Initially, Rs40 million was released for the construction of a 69-kilometre long drain from Channi Goth to Lari Ameer Din near Jetha Bhuta town where it was connected with a Scarp main drain. The construction work was halted many times because different residents of the area did not agree to give their land for the drain. Its route was changed many times, and the construction work could not be completed even after many years.
Some residents of the area whose land was acquired by the government allege that they have yet to get payments. Different small bridges on the drain were still incomplete.
Similarly, several water channels were not connected to the drain. At many locations, due to improper digging and poor levels, the flow of saline water stopped and inundated the nearby agricultural fields.
In 2015, the government approved Rs760.8 million for the drain’s completion, and the work restarted. The drain was partially completed in 2017.
Meanwhile, unwanted weeds, locally called “Kunder”, grew up in the drain, creating hurdles in the flow of water.
Zafar Pansoota from Chak 42-Abbasia told this correspondent that many people from the area migrated to other areas after they lost their land to waterlogging and salinity.
He claimed that in his neighboring village, a landlord with 100 acres was forced to sell wood due to salinity. He went on to say that neither the agriculture department nor any other department prepared data on affected land or advised farmers on alternative solutions.
Liaqatpur Grain Market President Waqar Ahmed says that during the last decade, the production of jaggery was reduced because sugarcane cultivation in Abbasia and Cholistani villages had vanished. He said that many known farmers related to the jaggery business have switched to other businesses after their farms were waterlogged. Several inquiries were also held into alleged corruption in the drain work.
Principal of the Engineering Academy Sher Dogar investigated corruption in the project. A team of an executive engineer, a sub-division officer and sub-engineers faced PEEDA Act inquiries. In 2013, the Chief Minister’s Inspection Team also pointed out corruption and irregularities in the project but no action was taken against corrupt officers and contractors. Some cases were also pending with the Anti-Corruption Establishment.
Agriculture Assistant Director Asghar Shahbaz could not be reached for comment, while Chief Engineer Khalid Bashir told Dawn that many inquiries regarding corruption in 3-R Drain were done. He said he would provide all details about the issue and share the updated status of 3-R Drain project, but failed to do so because of his health issues.
Published in Dawn, March 1st, 2023