Controlling reverse saline water flows

Post Source: Dawn Economic and Business Review

 

 

By Mohammad Hussain Khan

 

DURING his recent visit to the rain-hit districts, Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani assured the Sindh government of the centre’s help in controlling the Left Bank Outfall Drain reverse saline water flows.

The PM was briefed on the impact of monsoon on the LBOD that often leads to serious damage to human settlement and crops in the coastal district of Badin and Mirpurkhas. Locals and officials say the drain gets backward flow of water due to the LBOD’s design defect.

A new strategy will be evolved by the provincial irrigation department in consultation with the local community and elected representatives to tackle the LBOD problem. According to Sindh Irrigation Secretary Khalid Hyder Memon, the strategy document would be submitted to the federal government soon so that work is started before next monsoon season. “We plan to identify the old and natural routes of water that flows into the sea,” he says.

On the other hand, a visit by Wadpa officials’ team to different locations of the LBOD revealed that it needed proper maintenance from Naukot (Mirpurkhas district) downstream. “It is a case of deferred maintenance. When we visited the drain it was flowing with 6,000-7000 cusecs discharge against its designed discharge of 4,600 cusecs. It is not being managed properly,” a Wapda official said.

Wapda built the LBOD to save the lands of left bank districts of Badin, Nawabshah, Mirpurkhas, Sanghar and Thatta from water-logging and salinity by disposing of brackish water to the sea. After its completion in late 90s, it was handed over to the Sindh government in 2000. Since then the provincial irrigation department is responsible for its maintenance and has been pointing to its defective design. The blame game goes on without any remedy.

In this blame game, people sufferer. The disaster has dealt a severe blow to the rural economy. Secretary irrigation insists that it is not the maintenance but the design of the drain that is the problem. “When the design is
faulty, maintenance will not serve any purpose,” he says.

According to member water Wapda Raghib Shah, a study was conducted by Wapda on the request of Sindh government after the devastating rains in Badin in 2003. The study was given to the Sindh government in February 2010. “Now it is pending with the Sindh government,” he says and points out that a joint study was also done by PM’s team and the Sindh government a couple of years back. “Findings of the joint study indicated that an expenditure of Rs9 billion was needed to rehabilitate the drain (LBOD) system. This again is pending with Sindh,” he says. One of the proposals submitted to Wapda was that embankments of the drain could be raised to increase its capacity and carry around 9,000 cusec of water besides additional amount of rainfall.

The position of Sida which controls the LBOD and other drains is that Wapda just forwarded report of its consultants Nespak (National Engineering Services of Pakistan) to it without actually authenticating it. “There were around eight solutions to the problem submitted by Wapda to it mentioning that everyone was workable without specifying the option to be preferred,” Managing Director of Sida Ehsan Leghari says.

Sida is carrying out a study on drainage system’s master plan separately through foreign consultants. It will be completed by early 2013. Consultations with stakeholders are under way as part of this four phase study that would focus on the LBOD too.

The LBOD system has a capacity of 4,600 cusec of water with a provision of certain amount of rainfall runoff. According to a Wapda official it can cater to 75mm of rainfall. However, changing weather patterns have upset such engineering estimates.

Weather experts are warning of climate change for quite some time, advising everyone to adopt to changing conditions to avoid disasters.

The LBOD, also known as spinal drain, gets bifurcated into Kadhan Pateji Outfall Drain (KPOD) and Dhoro Puran Outfall Drain (DPOD). The DPOD disposes 2000 cusec of water intoShakoorLake, 80 per cent of which is located inIndian territoryand 20 per cent in Pakistani territory. Remaining 2,600 cusec goes to sea [Shah Samando creek] through KPOD tidal link.

The Sindh Irrigation Secretary points out that Wapda can build dams but canal infrastructure or drains are different ballgame.

He disagrees with Wapda member water that the LBOD can take 75mm rainfall runoff. “The LBOD can hardly take 50mm of rainfall. Wapda didn’t keep in mind that they are building drain in coastal region where rainfall can be as high as 400mm to 500mm at times,” he says.

According to a Badin farmer, Haji Nawaz Memon, the LBOD needs some modification in its designs to respond to high tides that are seen every month when the sea doesn’t accept drain water. “The depth of drain at tidal link location needs to be modified. Besides its northern embankments that face settled areas, are to be refurbished,” he proposes. He admits that drain is necessary for flushing out rainwater as Badin is a low lying area.

Current monsoon rains have once again spelt disaster in Badin, Tando Mohammad Khan and Mirpurkhas districts, causing serious damage to cotton, paddy, sugarcane, vegetables crops and fodders besides affecting two million people. Thousands have landed in so-called relief camps to wait for food and health facilities. Livestock is another sector that gets a harsh treatment by Nature.

Badin is the home constituency of Speaker National Assembly Dr Fahmida Mirza. She says that Sindh government would take elected representatives and local community on board when it prepares a LBOD brief for presentation to PM. “It requires federal government’s intervention because without its assistance Sindh will not be able to handle the LBOD problem. It needs billions of rupees and the allocations in the provincial budget are just peanuts,” she tells this correspondent.

She, however, made it clear that people and elected representatives of Badin would not agree to any study conducted by any agency that did not consult the local community and its representatives for resolving the LBDO issue once and for all.

 

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