September 9th, 2020
By Aftab Memon
Thousands of people have been displaced as well as thousands of acres of standing crops destroyed in nine districts of Sindh during spells of monsoon rains in the province. The farmers are crying out for help as the provincial and federal government bicker over funds needed to alleviate their suffering.
The rains have inundated cities, towns, and villages in Hyderabad, Thatta, Sajawal, Badin, Tando Adam Khan, Tharparkar, Umerkot, Mirphurkhas, and Sanghar, threatening to wipe out thousands of acres of standing crops in these areas.
Recent rains flooded posh localities and low-lying areas in the Hyderabad district. Residents sought succor on their rooftops as areas were submerged in six-feet deep rainwater in Railway Station, Hali Road, Qasimabad, Fatima Colony in Latifabad, and Gulshan-e-Mehr Ali. Residents took refuge on rooftops while some sought shelter on the roadsides. The water and sanitation agency, municipal and district authorities proved incapable of draining out the six-feet deep rainwater from localities, resigning the herculean task to the army relief units. “Hyderabad’s UC-94 and Fatima Jinnah Colony are still submerged in rainwater,” a distraught resident says, soaking in rainwater as a new spell begins.
“The army personnel came and pumped out rainwater from some localities. There is no sign of officials from municipal authorities or the provincial government. People are working to drain rainwater on a self-help basis and got no resources from the authorities,” he complains. “We saw no minister or MPA or MNA during this awful time,” he adds. He fears more residents will face displacement as the level of rainwater rises in many city areas.
The fresh spell of rain is proving to be the last straw, says a resident of Latifabad’s Unit No 11 locality flooded with rainwater.”The municipal organs of Hyderabad district have not yet responded to the calamity facing us.” He says the army relief operation in the area was underway, adding that the residents are appealing to take note of the worsening flood situation in the locality where residents are now using boats for movement.
In Badin and Tando Adam Khan, the floods washed away hundreds of houses, and any property and standing crops left unscathed was finally inundated with gushing rainwater from cracks in agriculture watercourses and the main canal of Left Bank Outfall Drain. The ensuing flood submerged homes and crops in Tehsil Matli and Pinjrio town. Residents fled for their lives, sheltering on the elevated roads in the areas. Officials say the crack in the LBOD was initially limited to 12 feet but due to negligence of irrigation staff, it stretched to a whopping 150 feet. The gap in LBOD was plugged after five days with help from the army relief operation. “There is no one to hear our call of help,” says a flood affectee in Badin. He says the water from courses and canals have destroyed paddy, sugarcane, and tomato crops. “The low-lying villages are submerged in six-feet deep rainwater,” he adds. People are sitting shelterless on roads, waiting for any officials to show up for their assistance.
The unusually high rainfall also caused flooding in Tharparkar. Islamkot’s Lohaar Mohalla was evacuated as rainwater submerged residences and roads. Roads connecting villages to towns were washed away while the Diplo town was submerged in four-feet deep rainwater. Residents of the famous desert region used boats for the first time to escape the gushing water. Residents blame municipal officials for Diplo’s drowning, citing inadequate measures. A tent city has been set up in Mithi city where local charities were supplying food to flood-hit residents. The tent city is providing shelter to 70,000 families from Sanghar, Mirpurkhas, and Umerkot districts.
In Badin, flood affectees complain that a medical relief camp set up in their area was shifted once the officials left after paying an inspection visit. “Now, our sick children and women are sitting here with no medicines,” a resident says.
Many areas in Umerkot and Mirpurkhas districts are still submerged in rainwater. Close to 20 primary schools and 600 houses have been damaged in the floods. Farmers say cotton crop, tomato, chilly, seasonal vegetables being cultivated on 15000 acres have been destroyed in the rains. About 50,000 people have been displaced.
The tale is no different in Sanghar district where about 200 villages were still submerged in rainwater. Residents in the constituency of People’s Party MNA Shazia Marri also complain of delays in relief operations.
The rainwater has submerged 25,000 acres of farmland in the province. Most cultivators are poor tenants from the Hindu community. The Sindh government has waived agriculture tax in flood-hit districts but the tenants point out that the relief will go into the pockets of landowners, not them. The tenants say the government should provide them with seeds and pesticides to make them cultivate their crops again. The provincial government has begun setting up medical camps as well as veterinary camps for cattle in the flood-affected areas. Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah says his government has not been able to announce a relief package as the federal government was not releasing Sindh’s share of funds. Like in 2011, the province is faced with a worsening flood situation but the federation is not doing enough to mitigate the suffering of the flood-hit people.