Down the River: Memories and livelihoods gone forever
By Rebecca Conway
Along a sun-scorched Indus River, fishermen point to the low-lying sandbanks banked by a swollen, drifting current.
They tell of whole crops, houses, small villages even, submerged below a flood that came a month ago and has not left.
Deep below the water’s surface are livelihoods and homes, childhood memories and hard-fought agricultural plots, easily lost in what has been termed Pakistan’s worst natural disaster, in terms of the sheer scale and the numbers of Pakistanis affected.
The long-term effects of the flooding in southern Punjab are becoming starkly apparent.
As people start to rebuild their homes, their attentions are turning to how they will pay to replace what has gone forever.
Huge swathes of land will not yield a harvest this year – and planting for the next harvest may not happen either in the floodwaters do not dissipate.
Rana Farmanullah lives in the village of Mehmood Kot in southern Punjab, and is worried about the rising unemployment among the flood victims in the area, and adamant the people don’t want to beg – they want to earn – and they need new opportunities to do it.
“We need food for living for a month. In the future we need jobs, to create a new source of earning, and we need houses. Jobs should be created because we should not have to be relying on charity.”
He says many of the villagers worked in the agriculture industry, and with the destruction of crops and uncertainty over whether the ground will be ready for replanting in time to meet the next harvest, people are looking elsewhere for work – and that many are not finding it.
Labourer Mohammad Ramazan says added pressure is mounting in the run-up to Pakistan’s most religious holiday. “We need to earn money now because we need something for Eid. We need to buy clothing and food for our children.” Without roofs over their heads or familiar belongings the holiday period will be bleak.
Amid the ruined village, few buildings remain standing. Bricks, earth and twisted metal mark the places where homes once stood. Villagers are repairing and rebuilding what the floodwaters took away.
They need money to replace much of what has been lost from their lives – and without employment opportunities the relief effort here may play out longer that it needs to.