Original Articles

Revisiting the LBOD issue

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Flood in Sindh & Design of Left Bank Outfall Drain (LBOD).

LBOD: The culprit behind recurring floods in Sindh?


Map of Left Bank Outfall Drain

With Thanks : Dawn

Revisiting the LBOD issue

WITH the recent monsoon experience, the question of whether the Left Bank Outfall Drain (LBOD) is the primary cause of flooding in lower Sindh districts has resurfaced.

Originally, the drain was designed to channel excessive irrigation water during floods and the runoff of waterlogged lands in Shaheed Benazirabad (formally Nawabshah), Sanghar and Mirpurkhas districts into the Arabian Sea at Zero Point in Badin district. The project, funded by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the World Bank (WB), was additionally meant to carry industrial and municipal effluent from urban centres.

However, due to numerous gaps in the design, operational, technical and monitoring dimensions, the drain has in fact been causing heavy damage from time to time. The sufferers include human populations, biodiversity and crops, especially when the lower Sindh area is hit by cyclones and heavy rains.

The LBOD has been serving as a ready channel for seawater to flow upward and encroach upon Sindh’s ecologically important and fertile areas. This was observed in the wake of the 1999 cyclone, when encroaching seawater caused severe damage. The cyclone hit the 41-kilometre tidal link canal of the LBOD, which split open in 65 places and caused massive losses in Badin. The scale of the tragedy is underlined by the fact that 355 bodies of children and adults were pulled out of the mud.

Faulty design was traced as the major reason behind the tidal link’s weakness. Badin’s coastal community believes that had the LBOD not existed, cyclone-related losses could have been minimised by up to 80 per cent.

Similar havoc linked to the LBOD was wreaked in Badin during the floods of 2003. The drain swelled beyond its capacity which resulted in breaches and overflows.

After surveying the damage, the Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum reported: “More than 32 people were killed, 50,000 acres of standing crops were damaged, more than 100,000 people were displaced for three months, about 12,000 fishermen lost their
single source of livelihood, and more than 10,000 acres of land [were] encroached [upon] by seawater during the rains and floods in 2003.”

In the recent floods, the existence of the drain has had a similar impact. Damage was inflicted on communities and arable lands in not just Badin but also Shaheed Benazirabad, Sanghar and Mirpurkhas. The first area, however, bore the brunt of the

A report prepared jointly by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation and Pakistan’s Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission (Suparco) blames the LBOD for the destruction brought on Tando Mohammad Khan, Badin
and Mirpurkhas districts. The gravity of the damage, and its geographical limits, has been wider this time.

The LBOD project should never have been pursued in the first place. Neither the design nor the implantation plan was feasible or participatory. Indeed, they lacked both wisdom and farsightedness. While the project proponents and implementers were
focusing on the LBOD as a tool in drainage, they failed to consider it as a possible threat.

The project was riddled with violations of not just various national and international laws but also the ADB and WB safeguard policies on involuntarily resettlement. The issues of preservation of climate and the protection of lakes were not considered,
and the public was kept unaware of the project’s potential impact. Breaches in the LBOD and its tidal link have resulted in the degradation of a large area of land by contaminating the groundwater with salt. This has resulted in depriving a large number
of people of potable water. The United Nations General Assembly declared the right to water as a basic right in 2010; the forum has proclaimed the 2005-2015 period as the international decade for action for ‘Water for Life’.

The degradation of cultivable land and the resultant contraction of livelihood opportunities have deprived a large number of people of their right to food ensured in Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Article 19 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, ratified by Pakistan in 2008, recognises freedom from hunger as a fundamental right.

With regard to biodiversity, the extinction of fish species as a result of the LBOD could be held to violate the UN Convention on Biodiversity, signed and ratified by Pakistan in 1994.

Efficient functioning of the LBOD required social and political oversight. These were absent during the project’s design and implementation stages. Despite several initiatives by groups and individuals such as the ‘save the coast’ committee in Badin and an anti-LBOD movement, the project was pushed through. Had these initiatives been taken before or during the project’s implementation, work could have been halted.

Interested parties filed a complaint in the World Bank’s Inspection Panel on Sept 9, 2004. After investigation, the panel justified the allegation levelled by the anti-LBOD movement and submitted its finding to the WB’s board of directors in mid-2006. In response, the bank management provided an action plan to the board which was approved on Oct 31, 2006.

Unfortunately, the plan failed to correspond with the major recommendations of the anti-LBOD movement. Instead of taking genuine and result-oriented measures, the bank made foul use of the losses. It gave financial assistance in the form of grants to some NGOs through the Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund. These funds were meant to implement various activities to compensate those affected by the LBOD. Subsequently, the anti-LBOD movement weakened and ultimately became dysfunctional.

In view of the damage wrought during the recent floods, it is time the movement mustered up its strength again. Before renewing the campaign, it should revisit its previous demands in relation to the present context. The priority list must be topped by the demand to decommission the LBOD. First, its low capacity can’t withstand pressure. Secondly, it has been weakened by poor maintenance. If it is not decommissioned, it will continue to bring disaster.

The writer works with the Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum and was associated with the Manila-based NGO on ADB Forum.


With Thanks : Participatory Development Initiatives



About the author

Humza Ikram


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  • To,
    The Honourable, Sir

    Subj: Complaint Against Corruption In A World Bank Project Over DPOD/LBOD Drain

    1. Most Respectfully It is submitted that A Bridge named “WATER MORI” was constructed over DPOD LBOD drain (world bank project) during early days of this project. Many of the farmers have their villages one side and lands on the other side of this drain, to keep their necessities in mind a “BRIDGE” of 7 fit width was constructed over this drain contained 2x joint water courses for supply of water for the cultivation of lands and a pathway for transportation of farmers. During earthquake 2001 the “BRIDGE” was damaged but it was in working condition till June 2012.
    2. During 2011 Flood, all bridges situated over this drain blocked the flow of heavy flood water resultantly thousands of villages of this constituency had flooded. Crops of millions rupees destroyed. In reaction government has launched a mega project for sanitation and maintenance of this drain. This “Bridge was completely pull down by government in mid of June 2012.
    3. 4 Months has passed away but still not water courses nor the pathway for farmers have reinstate by government so far, resultantly crops cultivated by formers on thousands acres of land have been destroyed due to not supply of water, farmers got million of rupees loss due to negligence of concerned authority, whereas all other schemes have been completed more than 60% to 70% but most important project of all this “BRIDGE” is still 0% progress ignored by some unknown reasons that can be ask from concerned authority / contractor.
    4. Now it has come to know through reliable sources that a documentary plan for construction of this bridge is under process according to which only pipes will be connected over 1000 fit longer drain for supply of water and a small path of 2.5 fit are planned to be established for transportation of farmers. We all the farmers are reject and protest against this plan because pipes will be blocked with sand and mud within one year due to sandy area, so these pipes will not fulfill the requirement of water courses as were previously established, and small path of 2.5 fit is not enough for transportation of bulls, Carriages and tractors over this path. This is completely a temporary plan for capture million of rupees on the name of this project.
    5. All Formers are demand following:-
    a. This bridge be constructed in its original shape as it was constructed previously (a pair of joint water courses and a pathway of 7 fit over them).
    b. Compensation of crops destroyed due to negligence of concerned authority be paid to the farmers from concerned responsible authority.
    c. Present plan to be stopped still “BRIDGE” be planned on its original map as it was previously established.
    d. A temp system for restoration of water supply may be planned on emergency basis so that wheat the main crop can be cultivate in time its season has been started since 15th October. Our water courses are running in DPOD drain instead of our lands we are taking that whole process as our blood is running in DPOD not water.
    Your obediently
    (All Farmers of Mithi No 2 Taluka and District Badin Sindh)