By Riaz Sohail
The PakistaniprovinceofSindhwas one of the worst affected by last year’s devastating floods. According to official figures 7.5 million people were directly or indirectly affected, with many spending at least four months in camps.
TheBBC’s Riaz Sohail discovered that the turmoil caused by the deluge has left a lasting impression on people’s lives.
When Shahbaz Ali left his town he had cash in hand, a well built three-roomed house and a poultry farm. But when he returned three months after the flooding all that remained was a heap of bricks.
Mr Ali lives in Garhi Khairo town some 550km (342 miles) north ofKarachi. It was under water for days because of a breach in the Tori dyke next to the mightyIndusriver.
Shahbaz Ali and his family lost their home and livelihood The riches-to-rags story of Mr Ali means that he is now among thousands of people waiting for relief in order to eke out a living.
On his return all that he and his family could do was collect bricks and build makeshift walls so that their flimsy tents would have better protection against the elements.
Neither the government nor aid agencies are providing relief, he complains.
Although they now say that they are working together on what is called the rehabilitation phase, the majority of international organisations stopped working in the area after completing the initial relief work and left the country.
Yet despite the hardships endured by Mr Ali and others, there have been some positives in the aftermath of the floods – the breached dyke for example has now been plugged and strengthened.
Garhi Khairo town however still looks the worse for wear. The floods washed away much of its infrastructure and communication system. Nawaz Umerani, a leader of the local Citizens’Alliancesays that the entire town was damaged.
Even the hospital in Garhi Khairo town was flooded Hospitals, schools and roads ceased to exist and there was no business activity – adding to the area’s unemployment problem and seriously affecting health care in Garhi Khairo and neighbouring towns.
Moreover the roads connecting them – as well as a major portion of theIndus Highway- have been washed away and not yet repaired. Whether it is health, education or the construction of roads, the government depends on international institutions.
Provincial Rehabilitation Minister Muzaffar Shujrah says that the government has taken a loan of $400m from the Asian Development Bank to build a super highway in flood-affected areas.
The government has also signed agreements with theUSto construct a sewage system and water supply schemes in all the district headquarters, while the UN has pledged to make hospitals and schools more operational.
But it is not only the infrastructure that has been badly damaged. Much of the land has a deserted and uncultivated look. Tikka Khan, a local farmer, said that the provincial government and aid agencies are providing seeds and fertilisers, but a grower with one acre receives the same amount as a grower with 100 acres.
Similar complaints have been made about the reconstruction of houses. National and international NGOs have been hard at work in this area, constructing thousands of houses with tin roofs or plastic sheets.
Many people are having to live under flimsy shelters But many complain that a one-roomed home is often insufficient, because many people in rural areas live in joint families.
Mr Shujrah admits that because the government spent a huge amount on the rescue and relief operation, it now has little money for the construction of houses in big numbers.
Meanwhile, thousands of flood victims are still living in tents which have deteriorated because of the poor weather conditions.
Every victim has their own story to tell, but one thing is common: All belongings were washed away and now they have no place to go.
Mohammed Hussain Khoso and others at Sukkur camp point out that they are unwilling to return to their homes because their landlords will charge them for months of unpaid rent.
Makeshift camps are now often seen on private land, resulting in clashes between land owners and the campers. The owners allege that their land is being illegally occupied.
Social activist Murad Pindrani says that some small scale farmers were told by unscrupulous landlords that the land was no longer theirs when they returned home and they should go somewhere else.
While the government claims to have completed the repair and strengthening of embankments – some have not been fixed and are being made weaker by water erosion.
Retired teacher Mohammed Ramzan points to the river and comments that while there is little water at present, any heavy rainfall would easily breach a weakened dyke and the area would once again be inundated. “We have repeatedly complained but no one is there to heed us,” he said.