The Punjab irrigation department has failed to carry out necessary repair work on 104 protective dykes established on various low-lying river banks in 24 districts across the province to protect people, their properties, wildlife, crops and government assets from the threat of floods.
An investigative report prepared by the Punjab police’s special branch with the technical assistance of the irrigation department revealed the threat arising from the possibility of rivers bursting their banks and causing widespread flooding.
The report said the dykes were damaged either partially or completely during the devastating 2010 floods and need heavy repair work following neglect on the part of the authorities. It added that a repeat of the floods would create widespread havoc across the province, unless urgent repairs are carried out.
The report also stated that a large amount of funds, which were supposed to be used for repair work were embezzled. There are about 150 dykes constructed upstream and downstream on rivers, head works and barrages. Out of these, around 104 were in dilapidated condition.
During the first week of August 2010, devastating floods hit southern parts of the province, causing colossal damage in 11 districts. As many as 6.2 million people were displaced or affected by the flood water. Approximately 110 people were killed, 1.71 million acres of farmland with ready-to-harvest crops were destroyed and 500,000 houses were damaged.
Some of the most high-risk areas include Dera Ghazi Khan, where 17 dykes were damaged during the 2010 floods, but there were still no repairs carried out on the artificial walls. Even the ones that were repaired were done so with substandard material, proving as much a risk as those that have not been fixed yet. In Rajanpur and Narowal districts, 19 dykes were eroded during the monsoon floods, and despite a lapse of two years, the irrigation department staff has either not carried out repair work or it was not done to a satisfactory level. Huge amounts of funds intended for quality repair work were also misappropriated.
A senior official of the irrigation department, requesting anonymity, said that after receiving the report, the department’s chief and executive engineers were asked to submit an explanation over the deficiencies pointed out. He said that it was true that the department was facing scarcity of funds to carry out the necessary repair work on the dykes, as the priority of the Punjab government had shifted, owing to reports that 2012’s monsoon season would not cause the type of destructive flooding witnessed in 2010 and 2011. He added that there were complaints that funds were embezzled by department officials with the help of contractors hired to carry out the repair work.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 22nd, 2012.