Pakistan's deadly flooding threatens world heritage site of Mohenjo-daro

Record-breaking downpours have already damaged the ancient city, says the site’s curator

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Pakistan's monsoon rains, which have killed hundreds of people, are now threatening a famous 4,500-year-old archaeological site.

The ruins of Mohenjo-daro in southern Sindh province near the Indus River are a Unesco World Heritage Site. They are considered among the best preserved urban settlements in South Asia.

The swelling waters of the Indus have wreaked havoc, with heavy rains and massive flooding causing devastation across much of Pakistan.

At least 1,343 people have been killed and millions have lost their homes in the surging waters.

The flooding has not yet hit the Mohenjo-daro ruins but record-breaking rains have damaged the ancient city, the site's curator Ahsan Abbasi said.

“Several big walls, which were built nearly 5,000 years ago, have collapsed because of the monsoon rains,” he told AP.

The ruins were discovered in 1922. To this day, mystery surrounds the disappearance of its civilisation, which coincided with those of ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia.

Mr Abbasi said dozens of construction workers, under the supervision of archaeologists, have started repair work.

The site’s landmark “Buddhist stupa” — a large, hemispherical structure associated with worship, meditation and burial — remains intact, he said. But the downpour has damaged some outer walls and also some larger walls separating individual rooms or chambers.

Site curator Ahsan Abbasi said rains now threaten the famed archeological site of Mohenjo-daro which dated back 4,500 years. AP

The civilisation at Mohenjo-daro, also known as “Mound of the Dead” in the local Sindhi language, built an elaborate drainage system, which has been critical in flooding in the past.

The Sindh province has been among the areas worst hit by the flooding in Pakistan.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said he would fly to the country on Wednesday to express solidarity with its people. He also plans “to appeal for the massive support of the international community to the Pakistanis, in this hour of need after the devastating floods that we are witnessing".

Mr Guterres said the floods were a result of climate change that is “supercharging the destruction of our planet”.

“Today it is Pakistan. Tomorrow it can be anywhere else,” he said.

On Monday, army engineers made a second cut into an embankment at Lake Manchar, Pakistan’s largest freshwater lake, to release rising waters in hopes of saving the nearby city of Sehwan from major flooding.

The water from the lake has already inundated dozens of nearby villages, forcing hundreds of families to leave their mud-brick homes in a hurry, many fleeing in panic.

Rescue operations continued on Tuesday, with troops and volunteers using helicopters and boats to get those stranded out of the flooded areas and taken to the nearest relief camps.

Tens of thousands of people are already living in such camps and thousands more have taken shelter on roadsides on higher ground.

Ghulam Sabir, 52, from the outskirts of Sehwan, said on Tuesday that he left his home three days ago after authorities told people to evacuate.

“I took my family members with me and came to this … safer place,” said Mr Sabir, staying by the roadside where he has set up camp. He echoed complaints of several other villagers — that no government help had reached them yet.

He said he did not know whether his home had collapsed or not.

Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif urged Pakistanis on Tuesday to generously donate to flood victims, most of whom are relying on government help to survive.

Mr Sharif has asked the international community to send more aid to those affected, insisting the country is facing a climate-change-induced tragedy.

The UN refugee agency said on Tuesday it had handed over thousands of tents and other emergency items to the Sindh government, meant for those affected by the flooded areas in the province.

Experts say that since 1959, Pakistan has emitted about 0.4 per cent of heat-trapping carbon dioxide, compared with 21.5 per cent by the US and 16.4 per cent by China.

Last week, Mr Guterres also called on the world to stop “sleepwalking” through the crisis.

Pakistani officials said he would travel to Sindh, but it is not known whether he will visit the archaeological site.

Updated: September 07, 2022, 1:43 PM
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