Pakistan farmers see livelihoods wiped out by floods
Majuky Faqirabad, Pakistan (AFP) Aug 4, 2010
Devastating floods have swept away farmland and devastated livestock in Pakistan's northwest, costing farmers millions of dollars and sparking demands for government compensation.
The land was some of the most fertile in the country: rich soil nurtured sugarcane, maize, tobacco and vegetables, fed communities and carpeted a lush landscape watered by gushing rivers and framed by mountains.
That vanished when torrential monsoons dumped more than 300 millimetres (12 inches) of rain in the space of 36 hours. More rain has fallen since and still more rain is forecast.
Entire villages and farms have been swept away. Homes have disappeared under flood waters. Dead livestock have been left rotting in the mud. Irrigation systems have been wiped out.
Farmers left homeless by the floods pour out their stories of loss, unable to imagine how they will rebuild their lives.
Maroof Khan, 52, a farmer from Majuky Faqirabad village who grew vegetables said his whole crop was destroyed. His house collapsed and his five buffalo and two cows died.
"When the water goes down then I'll be able to enter the fields. I'm just watching helplessly. What I can do? I was expecting good income this season," he said.
"The vegetables were in full boom. Rates were very high and I was expecting more than 100,000 rupees (1,200 dollars) profit. Now I am just praying for God's help.
"So far the government has done nothing for me and my family."
Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani is to chair a special cabinet meeting Wednesday to estimate the damage -- expected to run to billions of rupees (millions of dollars -- and to expedite the relief work.
Minister for Information Syed Sumsam Ali Shah Bukhari said a damage assessment could only start once the waters recede.
That was little comfort to Yousuf Khan, 46-year-old farmer in Dab Banda village who said he cultivated sugarcane and vegetables on two hectares.
"My whole crop has been totally destroyed. I'm facing losses of 90,000 rupees (1,050 dollars)," he told AFP.
Nawaz Khan, 50, owns pear orchards on five hectares in the same village.
"I have suffered millions of rupees as my orchard is destroyed. It is still submerged by the flood water."
"Sugarcane is the major crop of the season, but the land is still full of water," Khan said.
Fazal Mansoor, a landlord from Shakoor village whose brother sits in the provincial assembly had cultivated sugarcane, maize and tobacco on 700 hectares of farmland but said everything had been destroyed.
"We are facing the worst. My financial losses will be billions of rupees. Farmers won't only suffer this year, but in coming years."
For farmers living further north, in the Swat valley, it was the second year of disaster after a major military offensive against Taliban insurgents in 2009 prevented many from harvesting their crops.
Mansoor has set up a relief camp at Shakoor village, where more than 300 families have been sheltering. He has been providing foods and tents.
"Rehabilitation will take years, we are facing the worst floods ever to hit our area," Mansoor said.
Despite bitter complaints from ordinary people, Sikandar Khan, a lawmaker from the Awami National Party that rules in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, told AFP the authorities were doing everything possible, as he handed out food and medicine.
"We are doing everything we can. Roads in different areas are still flooded. The government alone cannot compete with the disaster," he said.
"We have already declared these areas calamity-hit. We need help from the central government as well as from foreign countries and donors."
"It will take years to rehabilitate those people who have been uprooted. Losses are in the billions of rupees."
Qayyum Khan, 66, from Majuky, asked the government to cough up.
"The farmers demand compensation from the government." Qayyum told AFP while standing on the debris of his ruined house.
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