Sun. Apr 18th, 2021

Floods also ravage cultural heritage

by Zulfiqar Ali Kalhoro

History’s worst flood has spared nothing that has come in its way. From Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Gilgit-Baltistan all along to Sindh sweeping across southern Punjab the surging force of the waters has destroyed vast tracts of habitation, farmlands, public infrastructure and even the centuries’ old remains of our civilization — monuments, museums, libraries, archaeological sites, cemeteries and shrines.

In Gilgit-Baltistan floodwaters inundated many villages in Diamer, Ghizer, Skardu, Ghanche and Gilgit districts. However, the hardest hit district was Diamer. Almost all valleys in Diamer, particularly Khanbarry, Darel, Tangir, Thor, Thak, and Gais Bala were devastated by floods and landslides. Lightning struck Gais Bala village killing 45 people. Floodwaters swept away not only people and cattle, but also bridges, houses and historical monuments.

In Tangir, the most affected village was Pharuri where 15 people and many houses were swept away by the Tangir River. The raging waters of this river also swept away some historical monuments and submerged some others. Of these the carved wooden coffins of Bagyot, Khamikot and Pharuri are prominent. The floodwater also submerged the 200 years old wooden mosque of Pharuri village. Apart from the wooden mosques and carved coffins, ancient forts built on the banks of Tangir river were also damaged in the floods. The ancient fort of Dabas suffered badly.

The Shyok River, a major tributary of the mighty Indus, also damaged the historical Jamia Masjid Noor Bakhshia in Khaplu, Ghanche district.

The cultural heritage of Punial, Gupis, and Yasin was also affected. Inundation in Thui valley in Yasin swept away monuments particularly the rock carvings depicting stone circles. The small boulders depicting animals were numerous at the mouth of the Thui valley which were, unfortunately, washed away by the floodwater. There were 14 stone circles on the right bank of Thui River, of which some collapsed under the force of the water.

Likewise, the cultural heritage including cemeteries, ancient mounds, forts, mosques, tombs, shrines and Hindu temples came under floodwaters when breaches in Tori and Begari dykes occurred. Flood waters from these two breaches inundated large swathes of northern Sindh’s Kashmore, Jacobabad, and Shikarpur, Qamber-Shahdadkot and Larkana districts forcing millions of people to abandon their homes and seek safety under open skies.

About 300 archaeological sites and historical monuments are submerged under floodwaters. The condition of the beautiful Jamali tombs in Shahdadkot tehsil, is the worst. There are five tombs which are noted for folk tale paintings of Sasui-Punhun, Suhni-Mehar, Nuri-Jam Tamachi, Umar-Marvi, Moomal Rano, Sorath-Rai Dyach etc. Unfortunately, all the Jamali tombs are completely under floodwater.

The Chandia tombs in Shahadadkot and Gebi Dero in Qamber are also badly affected. In Jacobabad, numerous monuments including Kot Jungo Mosque and the fort, Jamia mosque Ghospur, Hindu temple of Ghospur, Alam Khan Mosque, the tomb of Dad Muhammad Khan, Gul Muhammad mosque, the tomb of Shahal Khan, Nabi Baksh mosque, etc are all submerged. The affected monuments in Shikarpur district are also numerous.

The flood water is now heading towards Dadu district where the monuments of Kalhora period particularly the tombs of Mian Nasir Muhammad Kalhoro, Jamali tombs at Phulji and, at Murid Dero, Talpur tombs at Drigh Bala, Lund tombs at Pat Suleiman and Araro, Leghari tombs at Tor, Rustamani village, Haji Khan, Murid Dero and Jalab Dero are under serious threat.

It is feared that when the floodwater will recede, most of the tombs and mosques may cave in because the water has weakened the foundations of many monuments. Crops will grow back and houses and hutments swept away by the waters will also come up, roads will be rebuilt, but the loss of ancient cultural heritage is irreparable.

The writer is Staff Anthropologist at Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE). He may be contacted at:zulfi04@hotmail.com or re.isb@dawn.com

Original source: DAWN

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