Thursday, 30 June 2011

Cotton belt town struggling for potable water

Beside cooking, washing dishes, cleaning the home and looking after the three children, it is necessary for thirty tow years old Sanjhi Menghwar to bring potable water from the hand pump located in local graveyard, at the distance of half kilometer from her home. She visits graveyard with empty pitchers twice a days, early morning and in evening.

These are no more the new scenes for this agricultural Taluka, where women folk carrying pitchers on their head lined on the way to graveyard, as it is not model irrigational sub division of Pakistan , but a remote desert village of Thar . An unknown philanthropist financed funds for the installation for this hand pump in Hindu graveyard just behind the Garibabad (poor settlement). Nobody of this settlement knows exactly who is responsible to push 110000 human population of Khipro sub division to face even the acute potable water shortage.

Khipro is a taluka, an administrative subdivision, of Sanghar District, is located in the middle of Sindh on eastern corner along with Indian border. It touches Umerkot district from eastern southern side, Mirpurkhas district in south, district headquarter of Sanghar in west, Khairpur district in north and its unique white desert of Achhro Thar is spread along with Indian border in east.

Being located in the head of the Nara Canal system, the major canal system of the River Indus in Sindh province, Khirpo was cotton belt of Pakistan contributing 32 percent of total cotton production of Pakistan. Khipro was also producing red chilies, peanuts, wheat and vegetables but it seems these were the fairy tales of the past, right now the human population is struggling to get the potable water, though they have all around water in four major canals of Sindh, including Nara Canal. The Nara Canal off takes from Sukkur Barrage and splits into five main canals including Jamrao, Mithrao, Khipro, Hiral and Thar and all four of these canals pass through this subdivision, but human population are deprived even the potable water and they are forced to consume underground contaminated potable water from communal hand pumps.

Though the seepages of irrigational canals caused the under ground water sweet but no one knows exactly the purity of this water, as in Achhro Thar, just 50 kilometers away from Khipro Town people are getting lower limbs paralysis and many of them reported dead after consuming highly fluoride under ground water.

The official record of the district government Sanghar reveals that four water ponds were built in late 70s and latter two more ponds were constructed in early 80s to provide potable water of 55000 population of that time. In last three decades population increased to the double of that time but no new pond was built and existing pond silted. After the introduction of local government system the people of this area got a new hope that at least they will get new ponds for their potable water needs but during last eight years they got only decorated welcome gates and roundabouts on the main entrances of the town.
On contact Taluka Municipal Officer (TMO) Khipro said the city needs 20000 gallons every day but against these needs local water supply scheme receive only 11000 gallons averagely per day. After the acute water shortage in the province, irrigation department imposed water rotation on the canals but Khipro city could be counted as one of the few cities of Sindh where irrigation department has also imposed rotation system on potable water for human consumption. In the past most of the cities and smaller towns of province were facing potable water shortage mostly in early January followed by the annual closer of the canals for repairing and remodeling but at this time people are forced to face water shortage through out the year.

Apart from the water shortage, the purity of the potable water supplied to unofficial 110000 human population of Khipro. The records of defunct public health department Sanghar and current district government Sanghar reveal that it provides bleaching powder and chlorine for the purification on regular basis. After getting the purchasing slips of chlorine and bleaching powder, when this scribe contacted the chemical store of Karachi from where district government purchased these purification chemicals, the manager of the chemical store denied of such purchase.

For government, it is yet to be investigating the number of children die every year in Khipro subdivision because of the contaminated water and abdominal disorders, as district government and provincial health department is entirely blank in this regard and the death of these innocent children go unreported.

The social workers of the area are concerned for such phenomenon and the demand for more allocation of the funds so the potable water system could be improved. Prominent philanthropist, social worker and water quality expert Muhammad Ali Lashari expresses his grave concern over such conditions. He works for Sindh Graduates Association (SGA) and recently conducted in-depth survey of the underground potable water quality in Achhor Thar, where situation is worst. Lashari demands related authorities, provincial government and district government Sanghar to ensure the implementation of existing methods for purification of potable water and to bind the irrigation department not to force water rotation on potable water of the city, so people could get their due share.

In annual budget 2008-09 provincial government of Sindh allocated Rs.11 million for the renovation, repair and establishment of the potable water for district Sanghar. It is long practice that mostly the funds get lapsed without use or used only in the documents. The citizens must ask district government that what funds they received in the budget and these funds would be utilized. As stakeholder citizens have right to access the information for which they must insist.

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