Aslam Khan Umrani is a landowner. He belongs to district Nasirabad and he is now part of a movement known as ‘Pat Feeder Bachao Tehreek’ (Save Pat Feeder Canal Movement). The movement is the result of a host of issues related to the Pat Feeder Canal.
“Pat Feeder Canal has not been of benefits to the people of district Nasirabad since 2010. Before 2010, farmers used to get water till all tails (channels extended to reach farther areas). With the wide-range devastation caused by the flash flooding, the Canal was affected too,” says Aslam. “The water level our district received was 6,700 cusecs before the flash flooding of 2010. Since 2010 onwards, the level of water has drastically decreased and all channels have run dry,” laments Aslam.
Pat feeder canal in district Nasirabad has been of immense importance for farmers of Balochistan. However, continuous mismanagement and factors including corruption at the local level have badly affected the flow of water and cultivation. Installation of Illegal channels and pumping machines have added to the woes of the farmers.
“The recent level of water we received was 2000 to 3200 cusecs which was not adequate for cultivation.” Aslam says; adding: “all governments have promised to help stabilize Pat Feeder Canal but nothing has come so far.”
Local administration took action against illegal water channels during the season of Kharif (the crops grown in autumn). According to landowners and farmers of the area, the current crackdown is the second crackdown that happened after a delay of almost 30 years. The first crackdown against illegal channels and over-sized pipes took place in the 1980s.
Similarly, in June, in phase-wise operations, both Commissioner Nasirabad and Deputy Commissioner started cleansing at the Baron Pat-Feeder canal.
“We have concluded a grand operation to cleanse some parts of Pat Feeder canal of illegal pipes, motors and tractors working there,” says Hafiz Qasim Kakar, Deputy Commissioner Nasirabad. “To get the due share of water (6,700 cusecs) from Sindh, the canal needs de-silting and necessary maintenance work. Moreover, during the Kharif season, we have to make sure that various schemes are properly managed. For instance, a drinkable-water scheme needs a proper check and balance to make sure the water during Kharif season is used for only drinking,” Hafiz Qasim further explains.
Pat Feeder Bachao Tehreek (Save Pat Feeder Canal Movement)
In a recent attempt to make their voice heard, the members of ‘Pat Feeder Bachao Tehreek’ staged a demonstration in Islamabad. The march towards Islamabad had been part of the Movement’s agenda. However, things still remain in inertia.
“This canal generates economy not only for Balochistan but also provides jobs to thousands of people. It is alarming and sad how this canal is ruined. Unfortunately, only 35% of the legal command area is being irrigated whereas 40% of the land of the non-command area receives water illegally. Corruption is at its peak. This is a negative political attitude that has brought the canal to the brink of devastation. Therefore, we have started a movement,” says Baba Ghulam Rasool Umrani, who is heading the movement.
The charter of demands, which ‘Pat Feeder Bachao Tehreek’ has put forward, is based on 14 points. The opening demand is related to the overall funds allocated for the renovation of the canal after the devastating floods of 2010. Through its charter of demands, the Movement demands a detailed report on overall funds released for the uplift of the canal after 2010. Moreover, through its first demand, the ‘Pat Feeder Bachao Tehreek’ urges the government of Balochistan to make an independent commission to probe the utilization of funds.
Haji Nizamuddin Lehri, one of the key members leading the movement, believes that the canal was having enough water to reach even all the tails and commands before. According to Nizamuddin, with continuous flooding after 2010, all head commands of the canal were affected. “For a long, there has been no de-silting and re-modeling of the canal. The main issue is funding. However, if funds are received, they are misused or not utilized wisely,” Mr. Nizamudding laments.
During the Kharif season, Paddy is the common crop of the area that needs more water than other dry crops need. For sharing water phase-wise, there is an official water rotation plan scheduled to share water equally. Nevertheless, there are issues related to this method too. For instance, if any water channel is planned to have water during the rotation of the week, it doesn’t receive its due share because of the underhand dealing of local officials of the irrigation department.
“During Kharif season, the farmers and local people brought the Sacred Book (Quran) into the office of local administration and Irrigation Department to look into their miseries,” says Haji Nizamuddin.
Solving the Canal issue
A recent survey, conducted after orders of Chief Engineer and Secretary Irrigation Department and on the direction of Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner, shows 12 illegal water channels with 20 over-sized water pipes at RD 18, 40, and RD 50 of Magsi Shakh (The main channel named after the area it supplies with water). The survey also highlights the theft of 120 cusecs water.
Due to water theft causing a severe drought-like situation, a big chunk of people has migrated with the passage of time. The migration has been caused by a severe shortage of drinkable water which has resulted in a huge loss of cattle too.
Apart from issues related to renovation and water theft, the pressing issue is related to the share of water received from Sindh. In August 2019, Chief Minister Balochistan Jam Kamal along with cabinet members decided to take the issue of water share with the Sindh government. In the same month, the Irrigation department also briefed Chief Minister Balochistan along with Cabinet members that the banks of Pat Feeder in Sindh were encroached by mafias. The CM was also informed that the water flowing through the canal at Kashmore area of Sindh contained sewage which was causing hepatitis and other harmful diseases.
With the canal’s construction, it has become the lifeline to the people of district Nasirabad. However, the issues related to the canal have badly affected the lives of the farmers and landowners. The charter of demands put forward by the ‘Pat Feeder Bachao Tehreek’ includes a demand which urges the provincial government to give priority to the issue while allocating funds for the de-siltation and re-modeling of the canal through the Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP). On a grassroots level, the misuse and underhand dealing by the irrigation officials must be the first defunct branch of the tree to cut!
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