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FWO Building the Indus Link

Indus Link Project will bring a qualitative as well quantitative change in the lives of the people of interior Sindh

By Lt Col (Retd) Tajammal Raza Butt, TI(M)
Oct 30 - Nov 05, 2000

FWO is engaged in the construction of national significance projects right from its birth in 1966. FWO made its marks initially, by building the Karakoram Highway acknowledged as the Eighth Wonder of the world at the national and international levels. Today it is involved in execution of a large number of different civil engineering projects throughout the length and breadth of Pakistan. FWO invariably finds itself the obvious choice for construction of development projects in hitherto remote and difficult areas of the country because of its reputation to do the impossible. One of the projects being executed in the interior Sindh is the Indus Link Project. This project, on completion, will bring a qualitative as well quantitative change in the lives of the people of interior Sindh, in particular, contributing to the overall financial health of the country, in, general.


Construction of Indus Link is part of the multidimensional Indus Right Bank Outfall Drainage project (RBOD). The "Right Bank Master Plan" (RBMP) is a comprehensive plan for integrated development of the less developed right bank of Indus River covering large areas of Northern Sindh and Southern Balochistan. The project is designed to provide drainage to the command areas of Guddu and Sukkur Barrages. It is planned to develop nearly 4.50 million acres of lands, being irrigated by canals emanating from the right banks of Guddu and Sukkur Barrages.

RBMP covers agricultural sector programmes like agricultural development, Livestock, Forestry and Fisheries. It envisages three major water sector developments programmes i.e. Irrigation, Drainage and Flood protection. Although all these components are linked together for the overall development of the area but these can be implemented, to a great extent, without waiting for completion of linkage projects.

The drainage sector projects under RBMP have been planned in four stages of development: In the first stage a major priority work is the construction of RBOD-Indus Link Canal. This is where Frontier Works Organisation (FWO) enters into the picture.

FWO has demonstrated its skill and expertise in executing multifarious civil engineering projects and bears proven record in executing and successfully completing projects of extremely difficult and hazardous nature. FWO's achievements have made its name synonymous with the quality construction of projects in all fields of civil engineering. The work undertaken by FWO includes construction of roads, airfields, dams, bridges, canals, civil works of thermal and hydroelectric power stations, tunnels and underground structures, land reclamation works, flood protection bunds and subsurface drainage works. In view of its credible reputation, FWO was, once again, chosen to undertake this challenging task in the interior Sindh. This task had an extra impediment of security of persons working in the area, which became another important reason for making a special request to FWO for undertaking this gigantic project.

Necessity of Indus Link Project

The Command area of Guddu and Sukkur Barrages is relatively flat and natural surface drainage is often blocked by canals, roads, railway lines and other man-made features. In general, the area slopes away from the river towards West in the Nara valley and further West the land rises again towards the Kirthar Hills. Nara Valley forms the natural drainage line between Indus alluvium in the East and piedmont deposits in the West.

During the design stages of Sukkur Barrage and its irrigation system, the natural drainage line was exploited to construct Main Nara Valley Drain (MNVD) at the same time as Sukkur Barrage in 1932, connecting the two natural depressions i.e. Hamal Lake to the North and Manchar Lake to the South. This drain was aimed at carrying flood flows from Hamal Lake to Manchar Lake as well as escape flows from the Rice Canal.

With the passage of time, need for provision of drainage became vital to realize the benefits from agriculture. A portion of the drainage efffluent of the area is used for irrigation, whereas another part is discharged into river, while the remaining quantum of this effluent is disposed of into either Hamal Lake or Manchar Lake through a network of surface drains and MNVD. Inspite of provision of above drainage facilities, benefits accrued are small because of gentle slope of the area and inadequate outfall. The problem is further aggravated in summer when high water level in Manchar Lake restricts the flow of MNVD. Thus capacity of present outfall drains becomes inadequate to accommodate the drainable surplus from the area. In addition the ecological system of Manchar and Hamal Lakes is being endangered due to saline nature of the drainage efffluent. Inadequacy of drainage means that irrigation excess and rainfall runoff is dependent upon evaporation and deep percolation. In Kharif, during rice growing season, water table is generally at or near the surface with negligible component of deep percolation. The consequent removal of excess water is, therefore, only by evaporation, which leaves behind a large concentration of salts in the area causing destruction of land by salinity.

Objectives of the Project

Indus Link which is also known as the Lower Indus Right Bank (LIRB) Irrigation and Drainage Project is located on the right bank of River Indus within districts of Larkana, Shikarpur, Dadu and Jacobabad. The area is being irrigated by canal commands off taking from right side of Guddu and Sukkur barrages. The main aim of this project is to provide drainage facilities to about 1.63 million acres of land on right bank of Indus and under the Command of these canals.

Location of the Project.

Indus Link, as the name highlights, is being constructed to link Main Nara Valley Drain (MNVD) and River Indus. The portion starting from Indus river to RD 22+017 i.e. Indus Link 1 (IL-1) was initially contracted to a Chinese firm for construction but due to certain problems, the Chinese firm could not complete it and abandoned the work halfway, leaving a major portion of this section incomplete. Indus Link 2 (IL-2) is the portion of the link between villages of Lashani and Absani (between RD 22+017 and RD 52+779). The third section i.e. IL-3 between Village Abasani and MNVD (between RD 52+779 and RD 80+663). IL-2 and IL-3 have lengths of 9.759 km and 8.753 km respectively. These two lengths are presently being constructed by Frontier Works Organisation.

Design Criteria

The Indus Link 2 has been designed for a discharge of 2271 cusecs wheras IL 3 will have a discharge capacity of 3500 cusecs. Five sided cross section has been adopted to improve the flow conditions during low flow period as well as to cater for slope stability. A constant bed width of 22 feet with side slope of 4(H): 1(V) has been adopted in the lower part of the section while in the upper part of the section, side slope of 2(H): 1(V) has been adopted. The total depth of flow would be 17.5 feet with 4 feet free board above designed water level. A 30 feet wide maintenance berm has been provided on both sides of the drain.

Salient Features

The two sections of the Indus Link being constructed by FWO, in addition to a length 18.512 km of the main link canal, also include a large number of drainage structures. These are five village road bridges, one arterial road bridge, one district road bridge, one bridge on Indus Highway, five aqueducts, eight water crossings, sixteen inlet structures and a bifurcation structure. Construction of a large length of catch water drains is also part of the project.

The Construction and its Problems

The construction of Indus Link is a specialized work and has its preculian problem. Every stage of its construction posed specifed problems which needed detailed analysis to seek solution to these problems. The problems, both technical and administrative, which created impediments in the smooth construction drills are :

High water table, which at certain time of the years rises up to the ground level, posing a constant headache for FWO. The result was that a large number of water pumps had to be incorporated in the project.

Non availability of skilled labour in the area. Although FWO has a large pool of skilled workers, even then there was a requirement of additional skilled and semiskilled labour. In order to overcome these problems labour from distant areas had to secured, which meant additional financial burden for FWO.

The construction material needed was not available in the area and had to be transported from far away distances which caused delays in the work.

Extreme weather conditions is another constant hinderence in the smooth execution of the project.

Irregular flow of funds was another irritant, although FWO kept on working through its own sources yet the pace of work had to be slowed.

FWO employed a large collection of machinery plant and equipment like excators. Draglines, dozers, front end Loaders, dump trucks, tractor and trolleys, road rollers, water bowzers and generators were some of the equipment incorporated in the work for its smooth and speedy execution.

Beneflts of Project

The irrigation system on Right Bank were originally constructed without provision of a drainage system. The need for drainage was recognized at an early stage but delay in implementation of the project has resulted in lack of control of depth of surface water and flooding. Under the present project, surface drainage facilities will be provided.

In conjunction with good control of irrigation supplies this would make it possible to meet the water management requirements for rice.

It would also reduce storm storage damage since excess water could be drained.

By removing surface water at the end of Kharif season, surface drainage would enable more rapid planting of Rabi crops and hence productivity would increase.

It would also be possible to reclaim part of the water logged areas.

With the implementation of the drainage schemes the damage caused by flooding of low-lying fields will be reversed and the water depth of the rice fields will be controlled, increasing the present annual cropping intensity of 128 per cent to 131 per cent.

In the drainage schemes, the crop yields of rice will increase with the control of depth of water and flooding of low-lying fields. The crop yields of wheat will increase due to timely sowing of crop.

The incremental cropped area because of the project development under ultimate condition of development will increase by 5,592 and 14,401 hectares respectively.

The development and improvement of the ecological system of Manchar and Hamal Lakes will provide additional benefits relating to fisheries and miscellaneous by products.

The indirect benefits of the project would be in the form of reduced damage to crops and infrastructure. These would be very significant gains and should be kept in view while considering the project's economic benefits.

In addition to direct and indirect benefits of the project, there would be a number of socio-economic benefits in the form of employment opportunities, both during and after the Project implementation. Economic activity initiated during project construction would have cascading effect and all-round economic progress would accrue. The project, in addition to socio-economic improvement, would also have a positive impact on the environment.


This WAPDA sponsored project with a combined cost of Rs. 441 million was awarded to FWO in August 96 and it was planned to be completed in a period of two years. The progress on the project suffered right from the beginning due to a multiplicity of problems, both technical as well as administrative. These problems caused innunmerable delays in the smooth execution of the project. However, all the problems have now been resolved, with completion date of the projects pushed forward. Presently the work is in full swing and FWO is trying its utmost to complete the project at the earliest.