Efforts afoot to keep Leh Nullah at bay

Published July 1, 2024
Jetting machines are used to remove sludge and will be deployed in the city’s five sectors along Leh Nullah.
Jetting machines are used to remove sludge and will be deployed in the city’s five sectors along Leh Nullah.

Amid a forecast for above-normal rainfall during the upcoming monsoon season, authorities in Rawalpindi have stepped up preparation to keep the water in Leh Nullah at the bay, which regularly burst its banks to play havoc with public property along the tributary.

With a catchment area of 239km, the nullah passes through the heart of the city, as it enters the garrison city from the northern side through Khayaban-i-Sir Syed and meanders across the densely populated areas to fall into the Soan River on the outskirts of Rawalpindi.

In July 2001, a torrential rain spell in which 620mm of rain fell within a few hours flooded the nullah. As a result, 35 people were killed and property worth tens of millions was destroyed in addition to the slums by the nullah.

Heavy machinery has been deployed to clear a small drain in a locality near Jadeed Graveyard to avoid flooding.
Heavy machinery has been deployed to clear a small drain in a locality near Jadeed Graveyard to avoid flooding.

Such floods in Leh, which has six major tributaries with three originating in Islamabad, typically occur during the monsoon season from July to September, as during this period Islamabad receives rainfall from three types of weather systems, namely monsoon depressions from the Bay of Bengal (the most important system), westerly waves from the Mediterranean Sea; and seasonal lows from the Arabian Sea.

In order to mitigate any such threats, the Water and Sanitation Agency (Wasa), Rescue 1122, and the district administration have been on high alert since July 1. For the task of cleaning Leh and 15 other nullahs, the Punjab government has provided Rs180 million to Wasa.

Winch machines are used to clean underground sewers in the garrison city ahead of monsoon rains.
Winch machines are used to clean underground sewers in the garrison city ahead of monsoon rains.

According to Deputy Commissioner Dr Hassan Waqar Cheema, the district administration has finalised the monsoon plan and Leh will be cleaned before the arrival of the monsoon. He said about 60 per cent of the desilting has been completed, with the first round of the operation scheduled to be completed in the next four days. “All tributaries are also being cleared of the silt,” he said.

He said the meetings of the District Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) to review operational preparedness and response are being conducted monthly. “A comprehensive contingency plan has also been made,” he said, adding that 19 low-lying areas have been identified as vulnerable.

De-watering sets will be deployed in low-lying areas to suck out rainwater that accumulates after heavy rains.
De-watering sets will be deployed in low-lying areas to suck out rainwater that accumulates after heavy rains.

On the other hand, Wasa Managing Director Saleem Ashraf said the agency has completed the cleanliness of 65 per cent of the city’s sewers with wench machines. He said that the rain emergency would be declared from July 15 to September 15 and the teams have been set up for different areas and the machinery has also been repaired before the start of the rainy season. The heavy machinery includes six sucker machines, five jetting machines, five sewer cleaning rodding machines, 28 de-watering sets and 24 water bowsers.

A Crane is seen carrying out dredging work in Leh Nullah along Kumhar Road in Gawalmandi. — Photos by Mohammad Asim
A Crane is seen carrying out dredging work in Leh Nullah along Kumhar Road in Gawalmandi. — Photos by Mohammad Asim

He said Wasa has divided the city into five sectors, and staff have been deployed to deal with water accumulation complaints around the clock. He added that the flood response units had been established at Liaquat Bagh, Moti Mahal, Commercial Market Satellite Town, Bagh Sardaran, and Khayaban-i-Sir Syed. According to the official, the Punjab government provided Rs80 million for Leh Nullah and Rs60 million was provided to Wasa for 15 other nullahs across the city.

Published in Dawn, July 1st, 2024

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