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Govt stays silent as tides swallow up parts of Balochistan coastal village

KARACHI: Threatened by a sea that is fast devouring their land, the residents of Damb, a small seaside village in Sonmiani, Balochistan’s Lasbela district, have urged the government to take immediate measures for securing the coast. They also demanded compensation payment to all those affected by a disaster that struck the village.

On the morning of April 16, intense wave action swallowed over 43,000 square feet of land (around two acres) in various points of the village.

“The erosion spell started in the morning during the high tide and we saw large pieces of land falling apart in the northern-western side of Damb that exists in the Miani Hor Lagoon,” Master Abdul Rasheed of the Sonmiani Development Organisation said, adding that more than 200 structures, including houses and shops, had been lost in the disaster.

“People here are still recovering from the April 16 devastation; they saw their houses, shops and fishing vessels being drowned in the sea in a matter of few hours. What is more ironic, perhaps, is the muted response from the government,” said Mohammad Anwar, a village representative heading the community-based Coastal Association for Research and Development, a non-governmental organisation.

PDMA tells locals in Balochistan’s Lasbela district that sea erosion does not come within their purview

He explained that the perils of coastal erosion have been a part of the villagers’ life, but there has been an increase of its intensity in recent years. “We have never seen such an intense wave action before. We believe that the area’s vulnerability to coastal erosion has increased manifold due to a faulty jetty constructed here over a decade ago,” he said.

Master Rasheed added that the continued sea erosion had resulted in a loss of a major portion of the coastal market, besides affecting the Pakistan Coast Guards’ office and a seafood processing plant. As a result of the tragedy, fishermen now face difficulty in docking their vessels.

“Contacts with government officials, including the Provincial Disas­ter Management Authority (PDMA), the deputy commissioner and the coastal development authority haven’t materialised into any action. In fact, the PDMA told us that sea erosion did not come within their purview,” said Mr Anwar.

A team of the National Institute of Oceanography (NIO) experts from Karachi, however, visited the area and collected information and data about the erosion. “An area of over 43,000 square feet has been lost in the recent disaster. The fact that Damb is located in a lagoon makes it more vulnerable to sea erosion. Unfortunately, the construction of a faulty jetty over a decade ago and a breakwater has increased this vulnerability multiple times,” said Naimatullah Sohoo, a senior coastal engineer with NIO.

He explained that another factor which had contributed to sea erosion was a narrowing of the lagoon’s mouth.

“Its size has decreased from 2km to 1km due to sedimentation, further intensifying wave action. Besides, the seafloor is composed of loose sand, not solid material.”

He said a PC-1, which addressed the issues of sea intrusion and land subsidence in Sindh and sea erosion in Balochistan had been submitted to the government and its approval would help improve the situation.

Published in Dawn, April 26th, 2017

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