Sindh orders inquiry into Sukkar Barrage damage

KARACHI   -   The Sindh government ordered on Sunday an inquiry into the damage to the gates of the Sukkur Barrage and appointed focal persons to immediately update the farmers about the possible water shortage and crop losses. The provincial Irrigation Minister Jam Khan Shoro announced a five-member committee comprising his department’s senior officials to find out the causes of the barrage gate collapse, identify the real culprits behind it, and determine the responsible officers.

 The committee would submit its report in five days.

Sukkur Barrage over the Indus River – the largest single irrigation network of its kind in the world – was built over 90 years ago and is considered the pride of Pakistan’s irrigation system. The barrage consists of 66 gates with seven off-take canals to irrigate 70% of the province’s arable land.

On Thursday, the barrage official said in a statement that damages had been detected to gates number 44 and 47 of the barrage. They added that the water supply into all the off-taking canals was suspended emergency repair work was started to restore two damaged gates.

Consequently, the supply from the barrage to Nara, Rohri, Khairpur East, Khairpur West, Northern Dadu, Rice, and NW Canal was stopped. The statement added that all the other gates were fully opened to evacuate the upstream pond.

There was no official word as to what caused this seemingly unbelievable incident. There were several speculations about it but nothing could be verified. A barrage official had said last week that water pressure could have caused the damage, but again, he was not sure, according to media reports.

On Saturday, engineers from China managed to pull up one of the fallen gates, gate number 44 and started the repair work while the authorities waited for a drop in the water level to repeat the same exercise for gate number 47.

The irrigation minister who visited the barrage, the other day told reporters that water supply to left bank and right bank canals had been suspended. According to Sunday’s announcement, the five-member committee would investigate the matter and submit a report within five days.

Simultaneously, the provincial Agriculture Department established a water emergency cell to guide the farmers in the aftermath of the canal closure. According to a spokesperson, focal persons had been appointed in the six divisions of the province to guide the farmers.

“In all, 32 focal persons have been appointed at the provincial, divisional, district, and Taluka levels in the water emergency cell,” the spokesperson said in a press release. “The focal persons will apprise the farmers of water scarcity, crop damage, and other issues,” he added.

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