Floods revisit Sindh with disastrous results
September 09, 2011
Intermittent, heavy spell of monsoon rains have again perpetuated another massive inroad of floods, mostly in areas of Balochistan, Sindh and parts of Southern Punjab, inundating numerous rural villages, forcing countless citizens to relocate to safer zones. Mud dwellings are crumbling like houses of cards, killing dozen scores of persons, while injuring numerous others, while massive amounts of crops, ready to be harvested have been destroyed in minutes, and livestock vanquished like their human counterparts. Sindh has suffered massive destruction, as its areas like Badin, Dadu, Khairpur, Jamshoro, Khairpur, Nawabshah, MirpurKhas, Muhammad Khan, Hydrabad and its environs have been evenly and disastrously flooded. The worst sufferings were entailed by affectees of Badin, already helpless under the sun from rains, when floods overwhelmed them. Intense problems are being faced at numerous junctures to supply them with food and relief. Meanwhile India released excess water into Sutlej without any prior warning inundating Kasur, Lodhran, Bahawalpur, and other rural areas.
According to a report, intense monsoon rains could have very well damaged crops worth Rs.200 billion, According to sources of Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA), recent monsoon rains caused heavy losses both in human lives and crops and property. Seasonal vegetables and produce were badly affected, with cotton and sugarcane losses at 70%, and rice at 50%. It is pertinent to mention that this year rice was cultivated at 2 million acres, while cotton was cultivated at 700,000 acres. The executive member of Pakistan Cotton Ginners Association (PCGA), Ehsan-ul-Haq has estimated massive losses for cotton crops in Sindh and Punjab, possibly washing away more than one million cotton bales, making it difficult to achieve the targeted production of cotton for this fiscal year. More destruction of further cotton crops is expected in areas like Badin, Sanghar, Tando Adam Khan, Khairpur, Jamshoro, Khairpur, Nawabshah, MirpurKhas, Sukkur, Gharoo, Omarkot, Thattha and Mianwali, accounting for another possible colossal loss of more than 1.5 million ready crop, partially or fully. However rice crops would suffer less.
Due to intense monsoon rains in interior Sindh, the fruit market of Karachi has reported scarcity of fruit, spiraling the fruit prices at sky-high limits, while similar results have also been reported for vegetable produce. So much so that market was flooded with onions from Balochistan, and potato was being scavenged from cold storage, meant to be exported. This has made Pakistan lose its lucrative market like Singapore, Malaysia, Sri-Lanka and Dubai, who have been forced to revert to China and Bangladesh, which have a lower rate for the product. The farmers stand at loss because the government seems to be oblivious to the fact that it ought to waive of loans for farmers in view of this inclement situation. Recovery teams for loans have been known to arrive at homes of these farmers, while relief should be provided in view of flood sufferings.
The rehabilitation of destroyed crops would take quite some time, but nevertheless there is no dearth of unscrupulous elements that keep on their nefarious trend of looting spree even in such tragic environments; by selling expired or fake pesticides, seeds, and fertilizers to hapless and desperate farmers with relative impunity; resulting in massive destruction of vast crops, hurting the agro-economy, production targets and causing spiraling inflation. The representative bodies of Sindhi settlers have expressed their strong reservations over increase in fertilizer urea prices by 23% for Rs.190 per bag of urea. Which could usher in a strong food crisis, creating a possible shortage of 2.7 million tons of wheat, rice and other produce, while benefiting some industrialists by the tune of Rs.23 billion. They have declared that this increase was deliberate attempt to punish them for not accepting RGST (reformed general sales tax), and if not reverted, the settlers would refer to legal quarters for relief. According to settlers, the previous fear of destruction of crops by floods has been superceded by a deliberate effort to ruin the economy.
A close comparison with neighboring India reveals that urea sells for Rs434 a bag as compared to Rs.1100 per bag in Pakistan. However it is a good omen that amid this bleak situation that European Union (EU) has expressed its willingness to deliberate over possible access of Pakistani goods to European markets, in order to plug-in the gaping losses caused by intermittent floods, and help alleviate the damaged economy of Pakistan. The visiting commissioner of EU for human resources has confirmed this EU access. Stressing on Pakistan’s immediate need for seeds for a conducive agro-economic growth. Chairman agricultural developmental bank Zaka Ashraf has also stressed on support for progress in agro sector; informing about a white revolution regarding supply of milk ending poverty, and improving the quality of rural life and facilities. He also informed that bank has allocated Rs. 5 billion for purchase of livestock. The statements sound like heaven sent, only if they could/would be implemented in true letter and spirit.
Rains, and floods as such are even possibly a good omen, as they help irrigate land and even can be stored for drinking and other uses. Developed nations make projects of barrages and dams for this very purpose, but our Nation lacks any such planning or vision, which can help irrigate such desert prone areas like Tharparker. Scientists and engineers have recommended a host of suggestions, which have fallen on deaf ears so far.