More river levies break in Pakistan

SHIKARPUR, Pakistan — Thousands of farmers have crowded this once-quiet Pakistani town. They live on the hospital’s lawn, they camp on overpasses. Their fields are destroyed, covered by billions of gallons of brown soupy floodwater.

But ask those farmers about their water troubles and they’ll tell you flooding is just the most recent chapter.

“There is not enough water. We don’t have enough for the crops,” said Zubair Ahmed, a tenant farmer who came here after floods swept through his village and destroyed his fields. “Except for this year,” he added, without any irony. “This year it is different.”

This country, with its network of rivers that flow into the mighty Indus, struggles daily with water issues — too little, too much, in the wrong place — and rain is important to more than just farmers.

Around here, rainfall has long been reflected in economics, politics, diplomacy and social stability — and even Pakistan admits it wasn’t as prepared as it could have been for the flooding.

“We are the victims of both extremes,” said Shams ul Mulk, the former head of Pakistan’s Ministry of Water and Power. “We are the victims of scarcity and we are the victims of surpluses.”

A month into the worst floods in the country’s history, there was no respite Saturday. The swollen Indus River smashed another break early Saturday in the levees that protect the southern city of Thatta and numerous nearby villages. That sent thousands more people fleeing for high ground, crowding the roads and leaving the city of 175,000 nearly empty.

Thousands of flood victims sought shelter on the high ground of a sprawling centuries-old cemetery outside Thatta. Many were furious at the shortage of help, and how aid came in the form of bags of food being tossed from trucks.

“The people who come here to give us food treat us like beggars. They just throw the food. It is humiliating,” said 80-year-old Karima, who uses only one name, and who was living in the graveyard with more than two dozen relatives.

Almost 17.2 million people have been significantly affected by the floods and about 1.2 million homes have been destroyed or badly damaged, the U.N. has said. About 1,500 people have died. At one point, an area the size of Italy was believed to be underwater, much of it farmland.

The scale of the crisis quickly overwhelmed authorities, with the government’s painfully slow response leading to fears of unrest. While there has been no widespread violence, flood victims have repeatedly blocked roads through the flooded regions demanding more help.

The country’s finances, though, will take a major blow: Farming is a pillar of the Pakistani economy, making up some 23 percent of the gross domestic product and supporting millions of families. Officials expect the agricultural costs from the floods to reach into the billions of dollars.

The floods’ effects also will go far beyond the time when the waters recede.

Even Islamabad acknowledges it needs massive repairs to its enormous water irrigation network, which stretches across thousands of miles. About 80 percent of the country’s farmers are dependent on irrigation to nourish their crops.

Experts say only about one-third of the water that flows through the country’s irrigation system actually reaches the crops.

Talk to us

More in Local News

This photo provided by OceanGate Expeditions shows a submersible vessel named Titan used to visit the wreckage site of the Titanic. In a race against the clock on the high seas, an expanding international armada of ships and airplanes searched Tuesday, June 20, 2023, for the submersible that vanished in the North Atlantic while taking five people down to the wreck of the Titanic. (OceanGate Expeditions via AP)
A new movie based on OceanGate’s Titan submersible tragedy is in the works: ‘Salvaged’

MindRiot announced the film, a fictional project titled “Salvaged,” on Friday.

Craig Hess (Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office)
Sultan’s new police chief has 22 years in law enforcement

Craig Hess was sworn in Sep. 14. The Long Island-born cop was a first-responder on 9/11. He also served as Gold Bar police chief.

Cars move across Edgewater Bridge toward Everett on Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2023, in Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Edgewater Bridge redo linking Everett, Mukilteo delayed until mid-2024

The project, now with an estimated cost of $27 million, will detour West Mukilteo Boulevard foot and car traffic for a year.

Lynn Deeken, the Dean of Arts, Learning Resources & Pathways at EvCC, addresses a large gathering during the ribbon cutting ceremony of the new Cascade Learning Center on Thursday, Sept. 28, 2023, at Everett Community College in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
New EvCC learning resource center opens to students, public

Planners of the Everett Community College building hope it will encourage students to use on-campus tutoring resources.

Everett Police Chief Dan Templeman announces his retirement after 31 years of service at the Everett City Council meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2023 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Everett police chief to retire at the end of October

Chief Dan Templeman announced his retirement at Wednesday’s City Council meeting. He has been chief for nine years.

Boeing employees watch the KC-46 Pegasus delivery event  from the air stairs at Boeing on Thursday, Jan. 24, 2019 in Everett, Wa. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
Boeing’s iconic Everett factory tour to resume in October

After a three-year hiatus, tours of the Boeing Company’s enormous jet assembly plant are back at Paine Field.

A memorial for a 15-year-old shot and killed last week is set up at a bus stop along Harrison Road on Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2023, in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Teen boy identified in fatal shooting at Everett bus stop

Bryan Tamayo-Franco, 15, was shot at a Hardeson Road bus stop earlier this month. Police arrested two suspects.

Woman killed in crash on Highway 99 in Lynnwood

Police closed off Highway 99 between 188th Street SW and 196th Street SW while they investigated.

Mike Bredstrand, who is trying to get back his job with Lake Stevens Public Works, stands in front of the department’s building on Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2023, in Lake Stevens, Washington. Bredstrand believes his firing in July was an unwarranted act of revenge by the city. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Lake Stevens worker was fired after getting court order against boss

The city has reportedly spent nearly $60,000 on attorney and arbitration fees related to Mike Bredstrand, who wants his job back.

Most Read