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Deliberate breach in seawater drain could prevent flooding

The government has decided to open a cut into the Left Bank Outfall Drain (LBOD) in Badin so that the pressure of water is released and it flows into Shakoor Lake, announced provincial minister Zulfiqar Mirza.

The lake sprawls over 300 square kilometres and two-thirds of it spills across the border into Indian territory. Historically, it is said to be the natural course for the saline water to flow, and this is where the excess water from the drain was directed.

“I confess that I released water from the LBOD to Shakoor Lake,” he told The Express Tribune on Monday. “It would have burst otherwise.”

According to a source in the irrigation department, the lake is filled with around 2,000 cusecs. “In 2003, the irrigation department made a six-inch cut at one place. No breach has been made since then.”

Badin, Mirpurkhas and Tando Muhammad Khan have been declared calamity-hit after more than 475 millimetres of rain flooded all five of Badin’s tehsils last week.

The Indian government, meanwhile, is said to object to sending sewage into the lake. “The lake’s ownership should have been resolved during Partition,” remarked Mirza. “Now, just to appease India’s ‘apprehensions’, we are artificially diverting saline water to the sea through the LBOD and Kadhan Pateji Outfall Drain to the sea.”

Mirza warned that the LBOD, an artificial drain that carries saline water and effluent from Sindh and parts of Punjab towards the sea, was about to fall apart. It snakes through 86 miles of Badin before it empties into the sea at a point known as the Tidal Link.

Playing things close to home, Mirza was not ready to make too many sweeping statements in one day and declined to disclose the exact time and date that they planned to make the breach. “I don’t want an FIR registered against me for doing this,” he quipped.

The minister was pessimistic about the government’s efforts to address the salinity and flooding Badin faces because of the drain. “We obviously cannot wait two or three years for the study that will recommend solutions for the destructive drainage system,” he said. “We have government resources and manpower at our disposal. We will use the latter to fix the LBOD temporarily.”

Left Bank Canal Area Water Board Director Habib Ursani admitted that the drain has already given way in at least two places and has flooded a number of villages. “We have moved heavy machinery to the breach at 238 reduced distance (RD) near Umerkot while another breach at 273 RD in Badin is inaccessible.”