Onrushing torrents: High flood expected to sweep through Sindh this weekend

By Our Correspondents
Published: September 9, 2014

Millions of people were left homeless by the floods which wreaked havoc throughout Sindh in August and September 2011. PHOTO: FILE

HYDERABAD / SUKKUR: Residents of ‘katcha’ (riverbed) areas have been advised to evacuate to higher ground in the face of expected flooding at the Sindh barrages from September 13, while the Sindh irrigation secretary told officers to keep a sharp eye on the embankments and patrol vulnerable points during his visit to the Sukkur and Guddu barrages.

While the lack of rain in August led many to believe there would be no flooding this year, belated monsoon rains have played havoc in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab. Over 800,000 cusecs of water are now heading towards southern Punjab, and a high flood of approximately 700,000 cusecs is expected to enter Sindh at the Guddu barrage on the night between September 12 and 13.
The three barrages of Sindh – Guddu, Sukkur and Kotri – can technically sustain the flow of more than 900,000 cusecs of water, but the protective embankments are not strong enough to withstand this pressure.

Breaches in the embankments in 2010 floods displaced thousands of people throughout upper Sindh and in some parts of lower Sindh. While most of the breaches have reportedly been repaired and are expected to be able to withstand the torrents, the embankments of Begari Sindh feeder, damaged at the same time, might prove vulnerable. Furthermore, while a number of protective embankments can withstand the pressure of up to 700,000 cusecs, higher volumes could be disastrous.

Meanwhile, reports from different parts of upper Sindh indicate that the ‘katcha’ residents, living on the bed of the river, have yet to start evacuating their homes, as they still believe that there will be no high flood. Yet, with the arrival of 350,000 cusecs of water in the Indus, most of the ‘katcha’ areas are already inundated.

In Matiari district too, provincial minister Makhdoom Jameeluz Zaman asked the police and irrigation officials to evacuate people from dozens of ‘katcha’ villages, and to ensure 24-hour monitoring of the embankments. Jamshoro deputy commissioner Suhail Adeeb Bachani also said that due to incomplete drainage work and riverbed encroachments, flooding was imminent in the ‘katcha’ areas, which would have to be evacuated. Badin DC Mohammad Rafique Qureshi directed various government departments to prepare plans to deal with all contingencies, and specifically asked the health department to arrange anti-snake venom vaccines.
MPA Syed Owais Muzaffar, who visited Thatta and Sujawal on Sunday, said that formerly vulnerable embankments were being inspected. However, he remained optimistic that the flood would pass both districts without causing any harm.

In lower Sindh, it’s a numbers game

Meanwhile, irrigation officials and politicians disagreed on the level of the flood which will hit the Sindh barrages and the damage expected in lower Sindh.
Kotri barrage executive engineer Sajid Bhutto said the volume of water would decrease to about 550,000 cusecs by the time it reaches Kotri barrage. “Even if we receive all 700,000 cusecs, there is nothing to fear,” he added while briefing government officials on Monday. The barrage withstood over a million cusecs in 2010.

However, Senator Taj Haider rejected predictions of a medium flood. “There are 900,000 cusecs of water at Marala head, 500,000 at Jhelum, 300,000 at Kalabagh and 150,000 at Ravi-Sutlej,” he said. “These torrents have only one outlet to the Arabian Sea, and that is through Sindh.”

Even worse, Haider added, heavy rains have been forecast for Sindh in September. “The flood will coincide with the rains, which could be calamitous for parts of the province,” he said, fearing that Badin district would be the worst hit, with its lack of an efficient water drainage network and its coastal location.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 9th, 2014.