By Dr.Abdul Razak Shaikh,
The federal government has announced an ambitious Rs125 billion Sindh barrage project on the River Indus, winning support from the provincial government to build a huge structure 45km from the sea in the south of Thatta and east of Karachi to address environmental issues of sea intrusion and land degradation. Respected Mad
The unusual consensus between the ruling PTI at the Centre and the PPP in Sindh was reached at a meeting presided over by Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah at the CM House in the last week of August 2019. It was attended by the federal government delegation led by Minister for Water Resources Faisal Vawda, and senior officials from both sides.
The Indus Delta is a unique coastal system where the sea and the river meet, where the soil was very fertile due to the accumulation of silt from the river for thousands of years. But after the diversion of the upstream water there the amount of silt has become less while bringing up various threats to the delta. The delta included 17 major creaks starting from the Gizri Creek to Sir Creek.
Due to the diversion there is a less fresh water flow in the delta now and so there is an intrusion of sea, a manmade disaster. Meanwhile the rise in sea level is due to climate change, which is again man-made if we go into the depth of it. And because of the sea intrusion, the land is losing its fertility. The falling of the level of ground water has hurt agriculture. Farmers used to grow red rice here, which is no longer possible. Because of the non-availability of fresh water.
This issue was earlier raised in 2016 by Senator Dr.Karim Khuwaja in the senate and sub committee was formed under him as a Convener. The Senate subcommittee made recommendation that to conduct long term scientific study by stake holders to address this serious national issue. So the mitigate measures could be taken.
Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah said in the meeting that due to non- availabity of water at downstream Kotri, sea intrusion has destroyed hundreds of villages in Thatta , Sujawal Districts and also badly affected the delta, as a result wetland habitats, mangroves and man life growth has not only come to stand still but has vanished away to a large extent. Hundreds of families have migrated from the areas in search of livelihood somewhere else.
Federal Minister for Water Faisal Vawda and Chairman WAPDA Lt Gen (retd) Mohammad Hussain giving a briefing to the chief minister said that Indus River, the largest River and lifeline of the Pakistan.
There is a plan to construct 12 meter high Sindh Barrage on the River Indus at a distance of 45 km from sea. The dykes on either bank in flood plain would be four to nine meters high. The reservoir in flood plain from the barrage would be 160 km upstream. There would be two canals on each side for Irrigation and drinking water in the coastal area.
The chairman WAPDA said that right bank canal would be constructed from Ghorabari to Gharo and Left bank Canal from Sujawal to Golarchi. Chief minister Sindh suggested that right Bank Canal should be constructed up to Dhabeje so that it could provide water for Karachi and the left bank Canal may be taken up to from Golarchi to Thar to provide drinking water to the people of Thar.
The WAPDA chief told the meeting that around 56,500 acres land would be acquisitioned which include 55,000 acres for flood plain, 700 acres for right bank canal and 800 acres for Left bank Canal.
The meeting was told that conceptual study by WAPDA would be completed by August 2019, feasibility study would be done by September 2020, vetting for international consultants by December 2020, detailed engineering design to be carried out by 2021 and project implementation would start in January 2022 and to be completed by December 2024.
There would be a displacement of various villages, therefore a plan for their rehabilitation or resettlement may also be included in the project. It was suggested that the people who have already lost their lands in sea intrusion should be compensated through the barrage project and the land to be reclaimed from the sea after construction of the barrage must be given lands.
Water Expert views that there was proposal for construction of a Delta Channel at Buharo to dispose sea water Buharo Channel in 1970 but it could not be implemented. He suggested the WAPDA to construct Delta channel along with the project.
It was also suggested to construct coastal highway to further stop sea intrusion in the area. It was also suggested to constitute a oversee committee comprising experts of WAPDA, Sindh government to keep discussing the concept, the design and other n relevant issues of the barrage so that it turn out to be one of the best projects in the country.
The chief minister said that there was a dire need to regulate the available flows downstream Kotri to provide drinking water, arrangement irrigation supplies, reduce sea intrusion, flood evacuation, sweat ground water and improve ecology of the river.
The chief minister directed Irrigation Minister to establish close coordination with WPDA Chairman and form committee to carry out speed of work for the proposed barrage. In my opinion this decision will be historical and poor people will be happy for the survival of their generation.