2010 flood inquiry: Officials accused of negligence promoted


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KARACHI: While the roaring monsoon deluge heads towards Sindh after devastating most parts of central and South Punjab, officials accused of negligence during the 2010 epic floods have been promoted, even though an inquiry commission had recommended their dismissal.

This commission, headed by Justice (retd) Zahid Kurban Alvi, was formed after the devastating floods in 2010, and its report on breaches of Tori and MS Bunds, respectively in Khandhkot and Thatta districts, concluded that officials of the Irrigation Department were responsible for negligence that resulted in the left and right banks of the Indus River being engulfed.

The evidence in connection with precautionary measures taken by the Irrigation Department is not sufficient. We are constrained to record that collective negligence could firmly be attributed to them and those at the helm of the affairs should submit their resignations, the report states.

However, the-then chief engineer Guddu Barrage Zafarullah Mahar and Chief Engineer Kotri Barrage Manzoor Ahmed Shaikh were only given show-cause notices. Soon after the inquiry report was made public in November 2010, Mahar was promoted as project director (PD) linking and distribution within the Irrigation Department while Shaikh was asked to retain his executive engineer position until his retirement some time ago.

A few days ago, assistant executive engineers Guddu Barrage Sultan Mahar and Amjad Jatoi, also held equally responsible by the commission, were promoted as executive engineers.

The Irrigation Departments portfolio is now held by the chief minister and the departments secretary Babar Effendi said all officials held responsible for the breaches were suspended and a departmental inquiry was initiated against them. Those who were found innocent were promoted, he explained.

However, during a recent visit to Ghotki and Sukkur, the chief minister expressed dismay over developmental work here, saying he would take action against the relevant officials for failing to complete work on a few embankments of the Indus River. The situation is as bad as it was in 2010 in some places, he remarked.

In its report, the commission clearly ruled out any artificial breach or man-made cut in Tori Bund, saying, It was natural and a cause of combined elements of nature which ultimately broke the Bund.

Other recommendations of the commission which have yet to be implemented suggested removing the encroachment in the river belt or near to the Bund. There is even agriculture being carried out in the middle of the river. All this should be stopped. The encroachment should be removed and leases for carrying on agriculture should be cancelled. These steps are necessary to reduce extend of damage in future, the report said. The commission expressed concern over forest land that has been destroyed and given to various parties over time by successive governments for the purpose of cultivation.

The report recommended the introduction of disaster management programs in all education institutions as part of the curriculum. It suggested activating the civil defence system to perform during all types of emergencies.

We have done our job. It is now the responsibly of the government to implement it, the commissions head, Justice (retd) Zahid Kurban Alvi told The Express Tribune. The most important thing is to strengthen the existing Bunds with stone pitching, which the government has done it to some extent.

According to Alvi, the federal flood commission, which coordinates with the federal and provincial governments, national and provincial disaster management authorities, has totally failed in its work. The National Disaster Management Authority has no concrete plan of action and civil defence personnel need to be activated, the commission report stated.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 14[SUP]th[/SUP], 2014.