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Pakistan’s latest floods highlight urgency of Water governance

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KARACHI: Until a couple of decades ago, monsoon was feted with dance and songs in rural Pakistan. It was enshrined in poetry, and attributed to romantic fantasies.

But, the otherwise romantic monsoon in recent years has become the second name of destruction and fatalities with its increasing ferocity, frequency, and unpredictability. It has regularly been bringing devastation and diseases with short intervals to this part of the world, especially over the past two decades.

This year has been turned out to be the worst so far. The drenching monsoon followed by super floods caused lakes and rivers to overflow, flattened hundreds of thousands of houses, washing away uncountable cattle, and damaging huge amounts of ready -to-reap crops.

The raging deluges brought a third of the country under water, aside from killing over 1,700 people, and inflicting a staggering loss of 30 billion dollars to an already sputtering economy so far since mid-June.

A recent visit to several flood-battered districts of Sindh and Balochistan suggested that things are fast  moving from bad to worse as the secondary diasters are plauging the poor victims who have been living in squalor and diseases.

Large swathes of croplands are still under 3-6 feet water, with no hopes for immediate clearance. It means, tens of thousands of farmers won’t be able to grow wheat- a key source of their income – for next year.

It is ironic that the country is “full of water” at present but after a few months, it is likely to face a drought-like situation, causing further damage to the crops and putting an extra pressure on the country’s already depleting water resources.

Despite having one of the world’s largest irrigation systems, Pakistan is an importer of wheat, lintels, and other staples as its agricultural lands shrink due to a string of factors ranging from massive floods to drought. This lethal combination has also triggered widespread migration within Pakistan in the past decade.

More than two million people were displaced by floods that inundated one-fifth of the country in 2010, triggering mass migration to cities from rural Pakistan.

Of that figure, almost 70% did not go back to their hometowns and permanently settled in big cities to make a living because of the destruction to their homes and farmlands, according to the Ministry of Climate Change.

How long will it continue?  The answer is very simple .i.e until the country has a modern water governance system.

There could be different voices over ways of handling the floods and rainwaters, nonetheless the water experts are of a unanimous view that a proper water management system is the only way to mitigate the devastating impacts and aftermaths of rains and floods, which are likely to continue to strike Pakistan in years to come with short gaps.

Already melting glaciers are the primary target of climate change, mainly the rising temperatures, which will lead to acute water shortages and subsequently, hit agriculture and biodiversity in the region.

Pakistan is among the top ten countries vulnerable to the challenges relating to climate change and global warming, although its share in release of fossil fuels is less than 1 per cent. The country is annually losing more than $4 billion due to climate change disasters.

Islamabad takes credit for its much-publicized battle against the simmering climate change challenges, including ex-premier Imran Khan’s ambitious “10 Billion Tree Tsunami” project, which aims to restore the country’s fast-depleting forest cover.

For many environmentalists, nevertheless, it would not change much in terms of global warming as the Countries like Pakistan, which have a very minor share in the destruction of the environment.

Countries like Pakistan cannot do much to minimize the impact of climate change and global warming. What they can do is to adopt the modern ways of water governance to not only minimize the devastations caused by regular floods and droughts in terms of human lives, infrastructure and food security.

Certainly, the country, as a whole, lacks an orchestrated water management system, there, nevertheless, are some small but valuable efforts aimed at countering the urban flooding and drought through recharging the groundwater.

The key feature of these efforts is a groundwater recharge wells technology, which experts reckon, should be adopted as a national policy to counter urban flooding and ensuing drought due to climate change.

The groundwater recharge well is a cost-effective nature-based solution to revive aquifers and mitigate the risk of urban flooding through the most modern indigenous technology available.

There are several methods used to artificially recharge groundwater aquifers, including redirecting water across a land surface through streams, infiltration ponds, or simply injecting water directly into the ground through injection wells.

The Institute of Urbanism, International Water Management Institute (IWMI), Pakistan Council for Research on Water Resources (PCRWR) and Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung (HBS) have joined hands to push the idea of groundwater recharge that, experts agree, is need of the hour.

The Capital Development Authority (CDA) is establishing 100 recharge wells, of which 50 have been already operating, in Islamabad to conserve rainwaters and reduce the frequency of urban flooding.

These 50 recharge wells, according to PCRWR , have conserved 10 million gallons water, resulting in not only replenishing the groundwater but also reducing flooding in Rawalpindi’s Nullah Lai, which has long been the focal point of a flamboyant Shaikh Rashid Ahmed.

If this 10 million gallons of water was dumped into Nullah Lai then it would have resulted in urban flooding and inundation of roads and streets to an alarming level.

The PCRWR reports that if only 50% of the runoff from the urban area (220 km2) could be effectively harvested, groundwater recharge equal to the present shortfall of about 200 MGD could be achieved

The council has also established a network of rainwater harvesting system in the Cholistan desert where 110 rainwater harvesting reservoirs have been established each with a capacity of four million gallons.

According to Dr. Mohsin Hafeez, the IWMI’s Country Director and Regional Representative for Central Asia, his organization is helping CDA in implementing it on 100 sites.”

The water recharge level in the federal capital, he said, was 130-150 millimetres in 1990 which remained the same in 2021 despite a rapid spike in population and urbanization.

Established at the capital ‘s sprawling Kachnar Park, an artificial recharge well – the CDA’s pilot project- has helped improve 4.5 mm water table. From May to September, the capital received 78mm rainfall, and 1.9 million gallons of rainwater was conserved on this site.

Similarly in Lahore, a rainwater harvesting site has been established by WASA at Bagh-e-Jinnah with an underground water storage capacity of 1.4 million gallons. The water is later used for watering greenbelt plantations across the city. 

Construction of another two underground water tanks is underway at Sheranwala Gate and Alhamra Arts Council to store rainwater, causing flooding on the city thoroughfares.

These numbers may sound small but the coalition involved in this campaign is committed to transforming it into a national movement, whereby the groundwater recharge well should be an integral part of building by-laws of public buildings including academic institutions, private housing societies and industries and  green belts.  Thank you IU, IWMI, PCRWR and HBS.

The writer is a senior journalist and works for Turkiye’s Anadolu Agency.

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System Works – Najmi Alam’s front-man becomes powerful mafia of Sindh’s livestock, fisheries

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KARACHI: In blatant violation, Advisor to Chief Minister on Livestock and Fisheries Department Najmi Alam has appointed his front-man Agha Saeed as focal person of the Livestock and Fisheries Department of the Sindh Government, it is reliably learnt.

The Sindh’s livestock and fisheries department has always been a hot-cake where financial corruption of billions of rupees were corrupted and many investigations underway by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).

The world famous corruption made by Nisar Morai is still in the minds of the people and yet again the prominent ‘SYSTEM’ finally entered into the department in shape of installation of Najmi Alam as advisor. Under the rules, no outsider or private person can be installed as focal person, sources say.

Now, the project directors of foreign-funded multi-million projects engineers, development experts and all other official dealing with development schemes and budgets would directly report to Agha Saeed, the front-man of Najmi Alam.

Agha Saeed is a low-grade employee of the Sindh Local Government Department, who has brought into the Livestock and Fisheries Department by Najmi Alam. His appointment has shocked almost every officer of the department and a wave of unrest prevail among their ranks, sources added.

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DDO Powers for sale in Sindh’s Livestock & Fisheries Department

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KARACHI: The powers of Drawing and Disbursing Officer (DDO) are put on sale in the Sindh’s livestock and fisheries department ahead of retirement of the Assistant-Mukhtiarkar-turned-Secretary Dr Hafeez Ahmed Siyal, it is reliably learnt.

Dr Hafeez Ahmed Siyal, who was initially appointed as assistant mukhtiarkar, is retiring from the service in the first week of June 2024 as Secretary (BS-20).

The insiders told Sindhnews that the secretary was giving DDO powers to his blue-eyed officers allegedly with the conditions that available funds be withdrawn legally and larger chunk be given to him as he is retiring next month.

While blatantly violating the Rules of Procedures of the Sindh Government, Secretary Livestock and Fisheries Dr Hafeez Siyal illegally posted Director (BS-19) to the post of Director General (BS-20) without the consent of the chief secretary.

“Dr Hizbullah Bhutto, Director (BS-19), Animal Husbandry Sindh, Hyderabad, is hereby declared Drawing & Disbursing Officer (DDO) for the Cost Center HB0115 as provided under the provision of Treasury Rule-26 Note-I, for the utilization of funds subject to fulfillment of all codal formalities as per Financial Rules, with immediate effect until further orders”, according to a notification, available with Sindhnews.

“He will also look after the official routine work for office of the Director General Livestock Sindh, Hyderabad till the posting of a senior officer”, the notification adds.

Separately, “Dr Abdul Manan Khokhar, Senior Research Officer (BS-18), Directorate of Animal Husbandry, Sindh Hyderabad is hereby declared as Drawing and Disbursing Officer (DDO) for the cost centers KQ0432, KQ0433, KQ0436, KQ0437 and KQ0440 as provided under the provision of Treasury Rule-26 Note-I for utilization of funds subject to fulfillment of codal formalities as per financial rules, with immediate effect until further orders”, according to another notification.

It is mentioned here that Dr Abdul Manan Khokhar, is a veterinary doctor, posted at Hyderabad. He is supposed to perform his field duties in Hyderabad however he has become a powerful mafia and work as blue-eyed of the secretary for the last two years.

Most interestingly, Dr Hafeez Siyal issued a notification dated April 25, 2024 declaring Dr Essar Das, Additional Director Livestock as DDO for the cost centers SN0040, SN0041, SN0043, SN0044, SN0045 and SN0046.

However, Dr Essar Das refused to follow the instruction of Dr Hafeez Siyal that resulted in withdrawal of the notification of DDO powers on April 30, 2024.

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Dr Hizbullah Bhutto made DG Animal Husbandry illegally, given DDO powers

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KARACHI: In blatant violation of the Rules of Procedures of the Sindh Government, Secretary Livestock and Fisheries Dr Hafeez Siyal has illegally posted Director (BS-19) to the post of Director General (BS-20) without the consent of the chief secretary, it is learnt.

Dr Hafeez Ahmed Siyal, who was appointed as Mukhtiarkar and reached to the post of Secretary purely on political influence, is retiring in June 2024.

As he has left with only a month to retire that is why the secretary is tasking his blue-eyed officials to help him empty the government funds before his retirement, sources confided to Sindhnews.

Recently, Dr Hafeez Siyal declared Dr Hizbullah Bhutto, Director (BS-19) as Drawing and Disbursing Officer (DDO). Besides, assigning him the charge of Director General, Animal Husbandry illegally. Under the rules, Chief Secretary is the only authority who could issue transfer and posting of officers above BS-18.

“Dr Hizbullah Bhutto, Director (BS-19), Animal Husbandry Sindh, Hyderabad, is hereby declared Drawing & Disbursing Officer (DDO) for the Cost Center HB0115 as provided under the provision of Treasury Rule-26 Note-I, for the utilization of funds subject to fulfillment of all codal formalities as per Financial Rules, with immediate effect until further orders”, according to a notification, available with Sindhnews.

“He will also look after the official routine work for office of the Director General Livestock Sindh, Hyderabad till the posting of a senior officer”, the notification adds.

“These are government orders”, said Dr Hizbullah Bhutto when approached by Sindhnews to seek his official version about countless blessing of Secretary Dr Hafeez Siyal upon him.

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