INTERVIEW WITH DR. SIKANDAR MANDHRO, MPA FROM BADIN
Sep 19 - 25, 2011
PAGE: TELL US SOMETHING ABOUT YOURSELF?
DR. MANDHRO: I am 69-year old, indigenous Sindhi, a medical postgraduate practicing specialist. I also have a masters degree in political science and have been involved in politics since 1969 as a PPP worker, officeholder and elected member of provincial assembly of Sindh for four consecutive terms. My first nomination for MPA was in 1977 on the same seat ZA Bhutto as MNA was elected from.
PAGE: YOUR VIEWS ABOUT CROP INSURANCE IN PAKISTAN?
DR. MANDHRO: Yes, we are talking of a very impotent issue. Agriculture is the backbone of fertile plains in Sindh. To harvest maximum benefits, we must have sound scientific, social, and economic support policies. Unfortunately, we have bare minimum realization and planning in that direction. Orthodox agriculture and irrigation methods, ever increasing input costs, exploitation by middleman market mechanism and natural calamities of droughts and floods in absence of any type of insurance break the back of farmers and subsequently the backbone of national economy.
PAGE: HOW WOULD YOU COMMENT ON THE IMPACT OF RECENT FLOODS AND HEAVY RAINS IN SINDH?
DR. MANDHRO: Recent rains have been unprecedented. A continued spell for more than 32 days has played havoc with 21 districts out of total of 23 of the province. As we approach towards sea where this whole volume of water is ultimately going to be drained the condition is devastating. Badin and Thatta are tail end districts bearing the whole thrust and there is total loss of socioeconomic fabric for 2-3 years to come.
PAGE: YOUR VIEWS ABOUT THE SITUATION IN BADIN AND LBOD?
DR. MANDHRO: Situation in Badin is catastrophic. About 90 per cent out of 9000 sq km of its surface area is under a complete sheet of water. Human settlements, cattle grazing tracts, hundreds of thousand acres of various standing crops are totally washed away. Left bank outfall drain (LBOD) has proved to be an open mouth alligator swallowing all signs of sources of livelihood in the district and bleeding its population to slow death process. This monstrous channel drains saline effluent from three districts and vomits its venom into fertile fields of Badin district. So much saline effluent standing in our lands for months shall destroy the fertility of fields and hopes and dreams of our future for long times to come.
PAGE: YOUR VIEWS ABOUT PERFORMANCE OF AGRICULTURE SECTOR IN SINDH DURING THIS SEASON?
DR. MANDHRO: Crops are the only lifeline in Sindh as it has been from the early human history of Indus civilization. Though we are far away from modern methods of revolutionary agriculture producing performance, yet we have been acquiring better yields year by year. Since, we do not have proper policies of support and evolution, we go one step forwards and two backwards every now and then. India harvests two times more and USA five times what we harvest from a unit of land with a unit of water and we are having an exploding population growth. So, we have to invest in water utilization, soil science, plant pattern and market mechanisms to improve our crop producing performance.
PAGE: GIVE YOUR VIEWS ON EFFORTS OF GOVERNMENT IN FLOOD-AFFECTED AREAS?
DR. MANDHRO: We are reactive nation and awake only when some disaster befalls upon us. In 2005, an earthquake shook every bone of our body and decision was taken to fight future disasters by establishing special management authorities at national, provincial and district levels. After six long years, NDMA and PDMA are rudimentary and DDMA do not exist. Who, then acts on first call of calamity? Districts did not have specialty, resources and infrastructure NDMA and PDMA need time for yawning, awaking and acting. So after a gap of about three weeks, these fighting forces are seen to respond.
Whatever rescue and relief was being done was through unequipped and untrained district government with the help of funds from provincial government. Administration, people, and civil society have been contributing according to their respective capabilities. Such disasters are to be fought against in a systemic way in a well-organized structure on a specialized scientific management basis which we unfortunately do not posses. Sufferers are the poor people, the real owners of the land. Let us learn the lessons and act proactively rather reactively.