HYDERABAD: Axe has fallen on the executive engineer and assistant executive engineer of the Sukkur Barrage over the June 20 incident in which its seven gates were damaged and one of them had washed away.

The XEN, Ali Shah, and AEN, Ameer Bux Mahar, have been removed by the irrigation department. Farhan Waghan has been posted as the XEN and Abdul Samad as the AEN, it was learnt on Thursday.

The action has been taken while the technical inquiry committee investigating the incident is yet to finalise its probe and reach a conclusion.

The inquiry was supposed to be completed within five days after it was notified on June 22 by the irrigation secretary.

Headed by Mohiuddin Mughal, chief of the Sindh Barrages Improvement Programme (SBIP), the committee started its work late because its chairman and other members — Chief Engineer Mansoor Memon (chief of the Development Region-I), Pritam Das (Managing Director of the Sindh Irrigation and Drainage Authority), Mukthiar Abro (Chief Engineer Right Bank Canals of the barrage) and Hayat Shaikh (Director of the Salinity Control and Reclamation Project — were busy in restoration work at the barrage.

Technical inquiry team yet to finalise its report seven days after given deadline

The committee started the inquiry after cofferdam was established downstream and caisson gate (a water-tight structure) was installed upstream gate No 47 to ensure pond level at barrage to continue supplies of irrigation water to seven channels in peak Kharif season, currently under way.

Irrigation sources said that team members interviewed XEN Farhan Waghan and AEN Abdul Samad. Some record relating to barrage’s annual maintenance, closure and operation was obtained and examined by the members.

Sources privy to the team are of the view that technical team members formed their opinion as to where things had gone wrong. The committee’s report is yet to be prepared.

The probe team is not mandated to ‘fix responsibility’ of negligence and delinquency. It is tasked with examining the barrage operations over the last two months in relation to the standard operating procedures (SOPs); determine in detail the causes leading to the damage to gate No 44 and 47; and prepare a detailed technical enquiry report.

Experts’ committee proposed

Sindh Abadgar Ittehad (SAI) has called for appointment of an inquiry committee under supervision of a retired Supreme Court judge. It suggests that such a committee should comprise experts from the Mehran University of Engineering and Technology, Jamshoro, and NED University, Karachi.

Sindh Chamber of Agriculture (SAI), the oldest organisation of farmers, has already rejected the technical inquiry committee, and urged the Sindh government to order a high-level inquiry.

Meanwhile, work for the removal of remainder of gate No 47 is under way. The gate is being dewatered. Gate No. 7, one of the 10 permanently closed ones, is also being repaired as an additional gate in case availability of a new one to replace gate No 47 hits delay.

The new gate is being manufactured by the Karachi Shipyard and Engineering Works (KS&EW) and, according to Irrigation Secretary Zarif Khero, parts of it have started arriving the barrage.

Under a World Bank loan, SBIP was established in 2018 and it undertook replacement of Guddu and Sukkur barrages’ gates and rehabilitation of their civil structures at a cost of Rs74bn.

Sindh Irrigation Minister Jam Khan Shoro, on Wednesday evening told Dawn TV that an amount of around Rs17bn out of the SBIP funds was being spent on replacement of gates, rehabilitation of civil structures and modernisation of Sukkur Barrage.

Published in Dawn, July 5th, 2024

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