KARACHI: – President Asif Ali Zardari on Monday asked the Sindh government to consider reserving a one-kilometer wide belt of land on katcha side of the river bund for forests to provide protection to bunds from erosion. He also advised the government to consider procuring agriculture and earth moving machinery from cheap international sources and place them under one government department for post-flood rehabilitation of agricultural assets. He made the suggestion during two separate meetings in Bilawal House here to review the damages caused to agriculture, housing and infrastructure in Sindh and Baluchistan and measures taken for their rehabilitation.
The meetings were attended by the Chief Minister Sindh Syed Qaim Ali Shah, federal agriculture minister Nazar Gondal, Special Assistant on Water Kamak Majidullah, concerned provincial ministers and officials of Sindh and Baluchistan as well as the federal government.
Briefing media spokesperson to President Farhatullah Babar said the President also asked the provincial government to encourage sunflower cultivation in the affected districts of Sindh and to launch an awareness drive to educate the growers on the benefits of sunflower cultivation in the post flood scenario and provide them incentives in the form of free seed and fertilizer.
The meeting was briefed about the measures taken thus far to facilitate the farmers in the flood affected areas for wheat sowing during the rabi season. The meeting was informed that the federal government had already decided to provide assistance on area of 3.5 million acres for wheat sowing throughout the country. Of which, 0.8 million acres of damaged land in Sindh will be brought under wheat cultivation and another 0.4 million acres will be brought under cultivation with other rabi crops.
Work on the restoration of damaged canal system in Sindh was also reviewed during the meetings. The provincial irrigation minister informed the meeting that more than Rs 7 billion would be needed for the restoration of damaged canal system in the province.
President Zardari also directed the relevant federal government authorities to pursue with the UK the proposal to upgrade the Sukkur barrage that was initially built by the Britishers in 1932. He said that he had already raised the matter with British leaders during his meetings with them and they had responded positively to the suggestion.
The President also advised the government to seek Chinese assistance in exploring new ways to prevent destruction of infrastructure like bundhs and dykes during floods. A delegation of Water and Power ministry would be shortly leaving for China for this purpose.
On proposal of Sindh government that farmers with land holdings upto 64 acres in flood affected areas be provided interest free loans at the rate of Rs. 10,000 per acre, the President directed that the federal finance ministry may consider the proposal whereby the principal amount was paid back by the farmer while the bank interest on it was paid by the government. It was decided that a meeting of the relevant federal and provincial officials will be held Islamabad next week.-APP