Sindh’s huge losses from natural calamities
By Hasan Mansoor
KARACHI: Sindh has suffered a loss of Rs 145.687 billion ($2 billion) in the last four years due to drought, water shortage, sea erosion, cyclone A2 and an earthquake in neighbouring Gujarat according to official sources.
Estimates suggest that sea intrusion, which resulted from dwindling water in the Indus, caused a damage of Rs 100 billion while the drought caused a loss of Rs 2.8 billion.
The next biggest loss worth Rs 30.340 billion came as a result of crop damage due to water shortage. The cyclone of May 1999, which particularly hit the coastal districts of Thatta and Badin, cost Rs 7.93 billion. Similarly, strong tremors generated by the massive earthquake of January 2001 resulted in a loss of Rs 4.574 billion.
Since the late 1990s, natural calamities have hit the province, one after another, with a devastating effect on an already fragile economy of Sindh. People were still recovering from the earthquake when another drought hit Thar, Kohistan and Kachho areas. Official figures proclaim 12.2 million acres were submerged under the seawater in the coastal belt of Thatta and Badin districts, affecting over 50 villages in the area.
The worst-ever water shortages, caused by reduced rainfalls during the last few years, affected the Rabi and Kharif crops, bringing the province’s economy under severe pressure. The May 19 and 20 cyclone claimed 202 lives and 29,606 cattle heads. Moreover, 141 people were missing in Thatta.
The cyclone damaged 72,795 houses completely while partially destroying 138,719 houses in Thatta and Badin districts. At the same time, 556 boats were damaged.
Damage amounting to Rs 191.264 million was caused to the communication and electricity networks in the public sector. Similarly, private sector companies suffered a loss of Rs 7,973 million.
The earthquake, which rocked a large part of the province, claimed 12 lives and injured 115 people. Besides, it damaged 1,989 houses completely and 43,643 were partially destroyed. In the public sector, the earthquake ruined 1,091 education institutes and 315 government buildings. The drought in 2000-2001 mainly created problems for the residents of Mirpurkhas and Hyderabad Divisions since these areas heavily depend on rainfall. It affected 256 villages and 2,863 villages, making 1.38 million (194,798 families and 5.60 million heads of livestock) suffer. Sindh government is now planning to spend Rs 2,800 million to eradicate the situation resulting from drought. It will also spend Rs 7,027 million on development schemes in these areas.
The sea intrusion completely eroded 67 villages in Thatta and four in Badin and caused a partial damage to 76 villages in Thatta and 15 in Badin. The situation affected 12.20 million acres in Thatta and Badin.
In a recently held meeting, Secretary Irrigation Department Muhammad Hashim Leghari said the Indus Delta and Kotri Barrage were severely affected during the last few years due to a decline in river-water flow to the sea. Out of 16 creeks in the delta, drinking water was merely available at Hajmoro and Kharak Creeks, he said. “Mangrove forests have reduced from 70,000 million acres to 40,000 acres, while production of the famous Indus fish, palla, and large prawn has also decreased considerably, affecting the foreign exchange,” observed Mr Leghari.
Official figures show that 31,490 acres of Ghorabari, 590,000 of Shahbunder, 17,823 of Kharochhan, 60,173 of Mirpur Sakro, 226,663 of Jati, 1,13,900 of Keti Bunder, 30,625 of Golarchi and 49,179 of Badin have been flooded by seawater. A senior official of the irrigation department referred to a meeting held in Islamabad by the federal government in which detailed orders were issued to resolve the problem of sea intrusion. Sindh government, it may be recalled, recently demanded an extra 10 MAF (million acre feet) of irrigation water below the Kotri Barrage, as envisaged in the 1991 water accord.
The official emphasised the need to protect mangroves along the banks of Indus, fisheries and environment. He said losses from sea intrusion would increase manifolds if the problem was not addressed seriously.