Rains cost billions in crop loss, over 60,000 displaced in Sindh

The recent heavy rains led to breaches in canals and Left Bank Outfall Drain (LBOD) compelling over 60,000 to vacate their homes in Sindh province, officials said. According to National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), the breaches in LBOD and canals played havoc in six districts of Sindh including Badin, Mirpurkhas, Thatha, Tandu Allahyar, Tandu Muhammad Khan and Tharparkar.

Rains destroyed standing cotton, paddy, sugarcane, onion, tomato, chillies, fodder and other seasonal vegetable crops to the tune of billions of rupees in the affected areas. In addition, hundreds of livestock were swept away in the flood waters. Tando Muhammad Khan and Badin districts, which fall under Kotri Barrage, are the worst sufferers where rainwater has flooded several standing crops on 1.5 million acres of land.

According to NDMA, the government provided flood affected people with 7,000 temporary shelters, but most of the displaced persons have opted to shift to the places of their relatives. Officials in provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) of Sindh told Business Recorder on Wednesday that the recent monsoon rains in the Sindh province especially in the Lower Sindh have caused major loss to the Kharif crops.

Almost 60-80 percent cotton crop and 10-20 percent of the sugarcane in Sindh have been destroyed. He said that unconfirmed reports claim that some 30 people have been killed by the floods. They said that 80 percent cotton crop in Mirpur Khas, 85 percent in Badin, 85 percent in Thurparkar, 60 percent in Umarkot, 60 percent in Tando Allah Yar and Tando Muhammad Khan has been completely destroyed.

Almost 10 percent sugarcane crop in Mirpurkhas, 20 percent in Tharparkar, 10 percent in Umarkot, 10 percent in Tando Muhammad Khan and 15 percent in Badin has been damaged. Total damage to the rice crop in Badin has been recorded at 60 percent while 40 percent in Tando Muhammad Khan has been destroyed while the tomato crop in lower Sindh has completely destroyed.

They said that PDMA carried out joint sessions and prepared a 2011 monsoon contingency plan with district administration, provincial irrigation department, armed forces, health, education and home departments. The plan focused on likely scenarios, perceiving threat levels and dealing with them in an appropriate manner.

The officials said that on August 10, the Met Office sent a warning to the PDMA forecasting heavy rain fall during the on-going monsoon season. The forecast made by MET said, “According to analysis of Pakistan Meteorological Department, Government of Pakistan a Monsoon system lies over South Rajasthan and adjoining areas (India). Under the influence of this weather system strong monsoon currents are penetrating in most parts of Sindh”.

They added that the PDMA started taking precautionary measures to avoid loss immediately after being warned by Met. All the districts of Sindh were warned and directed to arrange dewatering pumps. Sources told Business Recorder that almost 200-300 mm rain has been recorded in Sindh that caused huge loss to the crops due to the mismanagement and poor monitoring of PDMA.

“No attention is being paid to the canals’ breaches. Drains that were already in poor conditions are over-flowing with monsoon water. There is no proper arrangement of dewatering pumps and rain water is still standing in crop areas. Poor growers have lost their bread and butter”, sources lamented.

Though the rain has stopped in Badin, it is feared that stagnant water may cause more breaches in the drains flowing in the area. More than 500 villages in Badin district have come under flood water, which is now flowing towards the coastal areas. The government has stopped the flow of main irrigation canals to avoid further loss of crops and inundating of villages, but the authorities have been unable to plug the wide breaches in the drains.

An official of the Sindh Irrigation and Drainage Authority (SIDA) said that they did not have access to these breaches yet to enable them to plug them to avoid further losses. He said the floodwaters make it impossible to utilise the machines. Breaches to LBOD were reported from three points and were the reason behind the destruction of small canals in Badin and Mirpurkhas districts which in turn led to inundation of vast areas.

However, local activists say the LBOD alone had resulted in 40 breaches due to high tides. They said wide areas of the coastal zone in Badin and Thatta districts had been affected and flood waters were still flowing and may affect more villages because no steps had been taken thus far to stop the flow.

Breach of LBOD from RD-1, near Jati, affected 20 villages in Thatta coastal areas. People were reluctant to leave their houses, erroneously maintaining that they were safe. Local activists tried to convince them to relocate in an effort to avoid any loss of life but they refused and are at present in a vulnerable situation.