Fate of thousands in Sindh lies with colonial-era Sukkur Barrage

Fate of thousands in Sindh lies with colonial-era Sukkur Barrage

Originally known as Lloyd Barrage, it was considered an engineering marvel when completed in 1932, capable of discharging 1.4 million cubic metres of water per second.

Sukkur: The fate of hundreds of thousands of people in Sindh is tied to a 90-year-old dam that channeled the flow of water from the mighty Indus River into one of the world’s largest irrigation systems.

The government has declared a state of emergency to deal with flooding caused by record monsoon rains, affecting nearly 33 million people.

But just as a river gives when it is rich, it can also take.

Sindh has been hit by weeks of torrential rains that have flooded farmlands across the state, but torrents are now pouring into the Indus from swollen tributaries in the north of the mountainous region, which will arrive in the next few days. is expected to.

The river originates in Tibet and southwards to the Arabian Sea near Karachi as it meanders more than 3,000 kilometers (2,000 miles) across Pakistan.

“I’m terrified by the water that flows into the river,” his 42-year-old farmer, Irshad Ali, who lives near the town of Sukkur, told AFP, lamenting the loss of date palm and vegetable fields in the monsoon. rice field.

“A great storm is coming.”

 

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The waters of the Indus have already overflowed their banks in some places, and unless the Sukkur Dam can control the flow, disaster will ensue. Originally known as Lloyd’s Barrage, when completed in 1932, it was an engineering marvel capable of pumping 1.4 million cubic meters of water per second through 66 steel gates hinged between stone pillars. was considered.

It is the center of the city, a popular photo spot for tourists and also features an important bridge over the river.

“While we had a 50-year guarantee, it took 90 years to complete,” Federal Water Minister Syed Khursheed Shah told AFP.

“That means it is 40 years past its guaranteed lifespan.”

Fortunate forecast

Water is diverted through a barrage into a series of canals that traverse nearly 10,000 kilometers of farmland, but years of neglect make it unable to handle today’s record volumes of water.

“Silting has accumulated and has not been removed,” Shah said, adding that a lack of equipment meant the channel had not been dredged since 2010.

A few feet thick layer of silt leaves less room for water to drain, causing backflow and possible flooding in the Indus.

The water has already flowed into the streets of Sukkur and is seeping through the walls of buildings along the Bandar road leading to the dam.

“The city is already four meters below the river,” said the federal minister. Engineers on Sunday worked to strengthen the Ali Wahan Dam. The dam is a key bend in the city’s Indus River, which is threatened by a swollen river.

Optimism and some time are the only reliefs.

“The dam is strong, machines are available and personnel are on alert,” Warden’s Shahid Hussain said.

“The good thing is timing,” he added, explaining that floods caused by localized rains should have receded as water is flowing in from the north.

But things can change quickly if it rains again near your home.

“Fortunately, the forecast says there will be no rain in the next few days,” Shah said.

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