Author’s Note: This is what Ashu Lal, a poet from Siraiki area of Pakistan, comments about the recent devastation caused by the floods in his area. I liked Ashu Lal’s talk so much that after watching his emotional interview with BBC, I decided to translate that for the understanding of the greater audience. In the whole translation the use of ‘I’ is synonymous with Ashu Lal.
I don’t think this destruction is because of ravaging waters in Indus, partly may be, but more it has to do with the greed of the local landlords. The Siraiki belt around Indus ( Katcha ) used to be a cattle hording area. People were very rich, some household might have hundred buffalos while other might have 200 but it is no more the same. We were told to till the land and become agriculturists and in return we got the same person now either owes money to fertilizer-supplier or to pesticide distributer. He has no more cattle but now he has one motor bike and a cell phone in his pocket, this is all he got in return. The connection of transformation from cattle ownership to an agriculturist has deep meanings. Prior to agricultural trend Kachi (his area) was known as ‘Sonay kee pachi’ ( basket of gold). People were rich now they are poor.
Before the wheat-cotton growing phenomena kicked in, people would connect rivers through small canals for the cultivation of cattle fodder only and there were around 500 natural lakes, so huge that some of them would take more than a day for a river to fill it. The river would pass through these area only after filling those lakes and these served as a natural check on the river flooding. Then greed of wheat crept in, the big landlord filled all those lakes with bulldozers over the period of time, to be used as wheat growing fields. Indus and its tributaries were left with narrow passages and zero natural storage to minimize the impact of flooding. Then what river would do, it would certainly jump out of its banks and would try to find its flow track like blinds, squashing anyone on its way. This is exactly what happened now.
I have never seen in my life that floods in these areas would actually do any harm to the people of the area or their cattle. Cattle could be moved but crops, no way! Reap the results the prosperous families overnight turned into alms seekers. When you level the outlets and close the flow channel, this is what rivers would do. Conform with nature, don’t bend it. It becomes furious if you meddle in its business. [ I support this argument based on the fact that heavy rains in Pakistan and fires in Russia are the result of tampering with Mother Nature ]. Every year, Lahore, mockingly also referred as Takht-e-Lahore, takes away Rs 95b from our area and returns back 10b, we don’t ask them too much after this calamity, just return our money that you took this year, and we’d be fine. But the scale is big, everything from Kala Bagh and all the way to the sea, is under water, more than 1100 KM. The scale of destruction is too big!
All the government official, members of parliament, they are unaware of the planning business, they just demonstrate their naivety when something out of blue falls on their head and then their mediocrity flashes everywhere. You have blocked the rivers but never bothered to make National Flood Commission or any other similar authority to plan and organize the construction of roads and residences according to the geographical realities of the watery areas. They are just useless scums, just useless.