Land, water and laws

PPP’s Sindh is an unhesitant acceptor of all things progressive

This is the party line handed down by its creator, ZAB, followed by a large number of enlightened faces in its councils

But the real power structure takes over in implementation

It is not just a laid-back bureaucracy, but the well-known feudal-bureaucratic nexus that resists till the noise reaches Bilawal to act as Chairman in one of his unguarded moments

Among many others, village Gul Muhammad Lund of UC Bedhmi near the zero point in Taluka Badin is waiting for that moment

Its residents remember ZAB who made women of the village owners of land by allotting them three acres each

That was in the 1970s

The asset ownership made no difference to their marginal existence

Even today, the villagers do not have safe water to drink

There is no school and the out of school children are cent per cent

Nor is there any heath facility, public or private

So what good was the access to land? Owning land without the right to water means nothing

The village is situated in the coastal belt at the tail end of the dreaded Left Bank Outfall Drain (LBOD) that has drained public funds more than the water

Badly conceived by the World Bank and poorly maintained first by WAPDA and now the Sindh government, the LBOD brings the unadulterated dirt and waste to the village and the sea

It leads to the intrusion of the sea onto the lands of the poor

During floods, the drainage from the upper districts spells disaster for the tail end due to breaches and overtopping of the drain

They wish there never were an LBOD! In Sindh, 77% of farming is done by women

Much more in village Gul Muhammad where women dominate ownership as well

Appropriately, the Sindh Women Agriculture Act was promulgated in 2019, but without making the resultant improvement required in the Sindh Tenancy Act of 1953

A civil society organisation, Strengthening Participatory Organisations (SPO), mobilised women in village Gul Muhammad and other villages around the right to water

The community debates led to the finding that water distribution, drainage removal and flood management would become more inclusive if women’s representation in water management bodies was ensured

These include Farmer Associations, Water Allocation Committees and Area Water Boards

To improve the legislation enacted in 2002, the Sindh Water Management (Amendment) Act was drafted in 2018

A private bill, it took three years to pass in January this year

Then its implementation was being delayed due to the procrastination in the process of rules formulation

SPO, after drafting the amendments in the original ordinance for the legislators, also drafted the rules for the convenience of the bureaucracy of Sindh Irrigation and Drainage Authority (SIDA)

Finally, the approval was accorded in August

Even after notification of the rules, the status quo will change only in the jurisdiction of SIDA, which is limited to the three main canals of lower Sindh

When the jurisdiction is extended to the entire province, and the law is implemented in letter and spirit, agriculture’s dynamic is likely to change significantly

The experience of the Sindh Rural Support Organisation shows that empowering women at the household level delivers much better outcomes

Similarly, the results of a study by Mustafa Nangraj presented at an SPO seminar showed that 60% of women were excluded from decisions about crop farming

This empowerment, together with the participation in the decision-making foras of irrigation water could make a material difference to lives and livelihoods

Date:27-Nov-2021 Reference:View Original Link