A drain of Scarp-VI project. — Dawn
A drain of Scarp-VI project. — Dawn

RAHIM YAR KHAN: The Salinity Control and Reclamation Programme-VI (Scarp-VI) has almost reclaimed more than 1.3 million acres of land in the district during the last three decades.

According to a project official, approximately 1.67 million acres of agriculture land of Rahim Yar Khan, Liaquatpur, Khanpur and Sadiqabad tehsils became waterlogged in late sixties and early seventies due to changes in the pattern of sub-surface water table.

Subsequently, a huge area of land producing cash crops like cotton, wheat and sugarcane became uncultivable.

The Scarp was launched by Wapda in 1981 with the financial assistance of the World Bank for reclamation of this barren land. This project was indent in the World Bank’s Indus Special Study Report (1967). The project became operational under the Punjab Irrigation Department in 1989 and later its operation and maintenance responsibilities were handed over to Pakistan Army in 1992.

Scarp-VI operational with 90pc efficiency

The project comprises 514 tubewells, 469 kilometres of drains, evaporation ponds and other infrastructure which remain operational throughout the year.

The Scarp-VI is divided into two drainage systems -- Khanpur and Manthar system. The Khanpur system is supporting the area of Rahim Yar Khan and its surrounding villages whereas Manthar system is supporting the Sadiqabad region.

“The drains carry this brackish water to desert area evaporation ponds located on the old bed of Ghaggar-Hakra river, ensuring maximum losses of brackish water by evaporation,” the official said.

A complex system of dykes and spillways has been constructed to regulate water. In case of emergency, when there is a breach in canal or during monsoon season, surplus water from irrigation canals is discharged into Scarp drains through different emergency escapes.

These escapes, constructed on sweet water canals or distributaries, can discharge up to 3,950 cusecs of water. “Overall, the Scarp-VI is a blessing for the people of southern Punjab where this project has remained operational with above 90 per cent efficiency.

SINDH: The official regretted that farmers and irrigation department of Ghotki (Sindh) blame this project for damage to their agricultural lands.

According to the Sindh Water Sector Improvement Phase-I Project (2013), a report of Sindh Irrigation and Drainage Authority (SIDA) and IRSA Advisory Committee (IAC) was shown during a stakeholders consultation by farmers in Ghotki about the drainage of water from Rahim Yar Khan.

They were of the view that seepage from the evaporation ponds had severely degraded their land. The Scarp-VI officials maintained that evaporation ponds are located far away from any cultivable piece of land on the southern desert side of both Rahim Yar Khan and Ghotki districts.

“It is practically impossible for this water to travel against natural slopes and make any negative impact on green area of district Ghotki,” the official says.

A 2019 report by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Scarp-VI (Rahim Yar Khan) has also declared that all these evaporation ponds are situated far from any agricultural land and are devoid of any harmful or poisonous impurities.

The validation in this regard is the presence of aquatic life in almost all the evaporation ponds.

According to another source, a detailed study -- Ghotki Drainage Network (GDN) -- is under way to cater to water logging and salinity issues in the areas of Ghotki district by construction of a drainage network in Taulka (tehsil) Ubauro, Daharki, Khangarh, Mirpur Mathelo and Ghotki.

When contacted, Director of SIDA (Ghotki) Khurshid Khokhar promised to share the Sindh stand with documentary evidence but didn’t respond when called again.

Published in Dawn, February 18th, 2024

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