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Livelihoods at stake as flood-affected areas struggle to recover

Nizamuddin Lehri, deputy mayor of Nasirabad in Balochistan Province, southwestern Pakistan, gestured to his right where a water-ravaged landscape stretched into the distance in place of what was once a flourishing rice field.

"When the floods hit this area, over 40,000 acres of paddy were destroyed in just one union council," Lehri said. The loss of so much agricultural produce was going to hit the area hard because the yield per acre had ranged from Rs 20,000 to 21,000 [US$331-348], he said.

Almost two months after heavy monsoon rains and a cyclone, life has not returned to normal in the country's south and southwest.

According to the UN and non-governmental organisations (NGOs), more than 400 people died, some 2.5 million were affected and close to 380,000 people were displaced by the floods in the provinces of Sindh and Balochistan.

Problems abound for local people, with the water still not receding from hundreds of square miles and more rain making its way across the region.

Crop damage

"This whole area has an agrarian economy with rice and wheat as the main crops. But all our fields have been destroyed and our livelihoods are in ruins," Akbar Buksh, a local farmer in the sub-district of K.N. Shah, told IRIN. K.N. Shah lies within the district of Dadu, about 350km southwest of Karachi. Two months after the deluge, the water is still running six to seven feet deep across vast tracts of farmland.

''This whole area has an agrarian economy with rice and wheat as the main crops. But all our fields have been destroyed and our livelihoods are in ruins.''

In Sindh floodwater damaged about 71,806 acres out of a total of 140,000 acres sown for this year's harvest, according to a report published in the Business Recorder, a leading national broadsheet, in early August. The report said rice was hardest hit - with an estimated 3.05 million metric tonnes of produce damaged. Overall, the report concluded, about 4.41 million metric tonnes of this year's rice, cotton and sugarcane crop worth about Rs 62.8 million (US$ 1,040,899) were destroyed.

Buksh looked unhappily at dark rain clouds forming in the distance, their reflection bouncing off what used to be fields of sugarcane but was now shimmering water flecked with trees, and boats that locals were using to commute between villages or to towns that had escaped damage due their elevation.

"We've had more rain now than I can remember ever before - and it still keeps on coming," he muttered, as the rumbling of thunder grew louder.

Cut off

"Close to 200 villages are completely cut off from the rest of the world somewhere over there. We don't know if they've managed to get any help or how many are sick or dying. If the rain comes again, they're done for," the farmer said.

Experts estimate that it might take the region a few months to recover once the monsoons are over. Locals in both affected provinces, however, insist the damage is far more serious than the authorities say, and claim it might take several years to recover.

Photo: Adnan Sipra/IRIN
An old man and his sick children stand before flooded paddy fields

"I have to go and sell my motorbike to get enough money to be able to survive with my family for the next couple of months," a harried looking man, who introduced himself as Khalid, told IRIN.

"Our lives have been ruined and no one seems to care," he continued, clasping a weak-looking child closer to him.

Behind him, a boat had drawn up to a makeshift jetty fashioned out of a road that had a 30ft gash in it caused by rushing water. Across the teeming water, some people had halted at the edge of the road and were preparing to swim across.

"This section of the road was washed away when the floods first came," Buksh said. "No one from the government or any NGO has tried to come and see what lies beyond. People are suffering there."


see also
IDPs in worst flood-hit areas struggle to cope

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information:

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