March 30, 2023

Tumbler Ridge News

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Pakistani villagers brave hunger and snakes to protect their flooded land

The village of Karim Baksh in southern Pakistan is completely submerged after a devastating monsoon: few buildings are still standing, wheat silos are empty and poisonous snakes are everywhere.

Yet, unlike tens of thousands of people fleeing flooded homes and seeking shelter elsewhere, many families stubbornly refuse to leave Karim Baksh.

With no title deed, they fear opportunists will take advantage of their exit from the land they have occupied for generations.
“We had property documents from the British colonial government,” attests Indizar Ahmed, a 55-year-old farmer.

“But we lost them years ago in a flood like this. (And) we have nowhere to go,” he told AFP, standing in a spot, slightly elevated next to his almost completely flooded property.

Others fear that if they leave, their livestock will die or disappear along the way. This resource is invaluable to these very poor villagers.

“We have buffaloes, cows and goats (…) If we leave the cattle behind, they will be stolen,” resident Shah Mohammad, 35, said.
He and his neighbors struggle to find food not only for themselves but also for their animals.

At the moment, they still get enough, according to him. But soon the wheat will run out.

Aid provided by humanitarian organizations by boat is the only link to the rest of the country for those unable or unwilling to leave.
The village is submerged in muddy water, which stretches for more than a kilometer at places.

Residents wait in one of the few places that are still dry for a boat from the Alkitmad Foundation, a Pakistani NGO, which slowly navigates village streets covered in waist-deep water.
It was the first time they had received help in days.

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The boat stops several times to distribute tents, food and other basic needs by volunteers of the foundation.
Each detour bears witness to the devastation caused by the worst monsoon floods in Pakistan’s history.

Most of the houses and buildings are crumbling. Villagers look for any equipment to build a temporary shelter and protect them from the rain and the scorching sun when it appears.

“Our houses collapsed (…) we cut trees and use this wood to support what’s left of our walls,” says 70-year-old Gul Badshah.

Maqbool Ahmed, another local, prepares for a lurking threat: poisonous snakes. He attaches a small light bulb to a car battery and places it in a pile of dirt.

“We turn it on at night to protect ourselves from snakes,” he says. “Sometimes cobras and snakes sneak up to where we are.”