Flood and Politics
Our conversation with residents of Kot Addu,- brought out that they were highly displeased at the way flood conditions were handled. According to them, the breach of embankment named Abbasid Bund at left bank (East) of River Indus was unprecedented. Historically, it was always the right bank (West) of River Indus at Taunsa Barrage that was inundated at the time of severe floods. The right bank areas on the side of Dera Ghazi Khan (DG Khan) district are less populated and hence flooding on that bank causes much less damage. During the floods this year, the West bank areas were instead flooded. These areas, including Kot Addu, are naturally low lying areas with a very large population. As a result, the damage was magnified to enormous proportions. Our hosts claimed that it was the powerful Khosa family of DG Khan which used its influence to protect their farm lands on the right bank side of River Indus. Hunjra, another political family of that area that owns farm lands and game ranches on the right bank side, was also pointed out for using political influence to protect their property and as a result inundating areas with large population. The residents pointed out that the affected areas come under the constituency of a PPP MNA and according to them, the provincial government of Punjab deliberately damaged the areas. Our hosts also pointed out strange management of Taunsa barrage at the time of flood where the barrage gates were shut down (instead of being opened) when large volume of flood water was to pass through the barrage.
The local residents also complained about the high handedness of the authorities when dealing with the demands of local population. Since the flood in River Indus had receded to an extent, the water, that submerged a large area, had started draining out through the breached embankment but instead of waiting for the water to drain out, the authorities started filling the breach. As a result, the large submerged areas may remain under water for months since there is no natural drainage for the water and sunlight cannot evaporate it. According to our hosts, when the local residents protested against this strategy, the Army officer in charge of the operation, threatened that he will order shooting of anybody who tried to interfere with his work.
People were also worried about the future prospects of agriculture in that area. The sowing season for wheat was about to start from September 15 (the optimum time will end in mid November) but a lot of areas were under water which does not seem to recede while wheat requires dry land to be sown. Late sowing of wheat from mid November to mid January is also possible but it provides low yield and requires relatively large effort and input.