What needs to be done? One of the main reasons for flooding from torrential rains this time around rather than rising river levels was that national waterways were encroached, the capacity of the drainage system such as LBOD was limited and outlets to the traditional drains leading to the sea were not functional, the desilting of the canals had not taken place and the repair and maintenance of the dykes was neglected.
A 2013 World Bank-SIDA study had identified projects to be implemented for an integrated drainage system. The works worth 42 billion rupees have been delayed for the past eight years and are expected to be resourced and executed expeditiously. Dewatering and drainage works should be given priority and all human-made encroachments and obstructions on natural waterways should be immediately removed, regardless of the power of the beneficiaries of such encroachments. All of these works and projects should be monitored by third parties to ensure that corruption, leaks and waste are minimized.
Second, it is time to rethink and implement measures that increase efficiency and promote the conservation of our water resources. As a lower riparian province, Sindh’s water problem seems acute and shortages hit smallholder farmers the hardest as they are deprived of timely and adequate availability of water for their crops. The overflow of their land by the influential and politically well-connected landowners in collusion with heads of the irrigation department at the head by tampering with water modules and pumping directly from the canals has become a common feature of the conveyance system. and water distribution of Sindh. . Poor farmers at the back of the pack are the main victims of this diversion. As a result, the productivity differential between large and smallholders has widened mainly because of this inequitable distribution of irrigation water.
In addition, widespread contamination, intrusion of seawater below the Kotri Dam, increasing amounts of pesticides and fertilizers used in agriculture, industrial runoff from rapidly growing cities and industries, and processing Inadequate sewage has degraded water quality. Previous attempts to shape and confine the course of the river flow by the embankment have raised the river bed higher than the land. As a result, the likelihood of embankment failures has increased, as have floodplain drainage problems. Water-intensive crops such as rice and sugarcane should be replaced by high-value crops, as yield per drop of water rather than yield per acre of land should be the determining factor for use and effective water conservation. The current uniform pricing system under “abiana” is to be replaced by volumetric use. Proper management of water resources is the key to the agricultural economy of Sindh in the future.
Related to the above point, there is a need to revamp the institutional arrangements for the maintenance and operation of irrigation infrastructure. Sindh High Court Chief Justice recently observed that Sindh’s infrastructure has been destroyed in part by poor governance. The double control and the fragmentation of the responsibilities of the irrigation system divided between the department of irrigation and SIDA have not proved their effectiveness. SIDA managed the control of the Nara and Ghotki supply canals of Sukkur Barrage, but their drainage was taken care of by the irrigation department. SIDA does not intervene in the areas of the right bank.
An integrated water resources management system that takes into account surface water conveyance, groundwater recharge and use, drainage, flood protection works, dams, drinking water, Industrial water needs and water conservation must be put in place. Rain collection reservoirs to recharge groundwater and dilute salt water can prevent urban flooding, provide drinking water and cope with drought conditions.
Cultivated area in Tharparkar division can be increased by constructing reservoirs, ponds, wells, streams and other water storage techniques. This integrated system can only work if an autonomous body run by professionals, with a minimum of interference from the administrations, is entrusted with this task.
Water usage charges should be assessed on the basis of volumetric use, as is the case for electricity and gas charges, collected by the Authority and fully allocated by it to the operation, maintenance and development of the irrigation system. The Authority should have the legal power to revise fees and collect arrears as land revenue with penalties. It can act as a wholesaler who enters into contractual agreements with urban water supply agencies and bulk buyers for drinking water and industrial uses. This would require integrating financial and business experts into the Authority’s management team rather than being a purely engineering-focused organization as it is now.
Third, social indicators such as literacy, school enrollment rates, school dropout rates, vocational and technical training, immunization, improved nutritional standards to combat stunting and wasting, maternal and child care services, family planning and spacing, etc. need to be improved – especially for rural women. Women health workers have played an important role in health awareness and prevention. They should be reinforced, trained and receive incentive compensation based on results and achievements. Non-formal schooling for out-of-schoolers using existing facilities and buildings, especially for girls, should be adequately resourced. Micro-loans should be given to businesses run by women so that they can grow and invest in their businesses. Cash assistance to female-headed households under the BISP should be given at a higher level than currently to poor families affected by the floods.
Thirty-eight million people in Pakistan faced moderate to severe food insecurity before the floods. Eighteen percent of the children suffered from malnutrition. These figures must have increased following the floods. Food distribution to these affected groups can be targeted using the Benazir Income Support Program National Socio-Economic Registry.
Fourth, most surveys, public opinion polls and media reports point to widespread corruption and embezzlement of public funds and the indifferent attitude of service providers as the main reasons for the poor delivery of public services. The rehabilitation of flood-affected families requires a redirection of funds from traditional ADP projects towards infrastructure restoration, seed replacement for rabi crops, interest-free loans for the purchase of inputs, reconstruction of houses and new compact settlements.
Prioritization of potable water for domestic use, drainage and sanitation, link/access roads and district settlements should be included in the revised ADP for this year. Land issues for resettlements and new residential developments, safe areas and high risk areas, provision of land for the settlement of the landless should be addressed. Building materials, housing standards, climate refugees and migration to urban areas are other issues that require the attention of policy makers.
Finally, the powers and resources currently enjoyed by provincial and national disaster management authorities should be devolved to districts under the direct control of local government. A political, neutral and impartial administration has a better chance of meeting the needs of targeted groups while ensuring fairness, accountability and transparency. The NDMA and the PDMAs should develop guidelines, standards, processes, alert systems, mobilize resources from national and international bodies, monitor the performance of the DDMAs and organize their audit.
However, implementation should be left to district authorities as they are best equipped to assess the situation, plan actions, react quickly, mobilize financial resources from the community and execute plans by coordinating various donor efforts. , the private sector and NGOs and by bringing together all government agencies and distributing the different tasks among them in a collaborative way.
The writer is the author of ‘Governing the ungovernable’.