Preparing for impending floods
The Met Office has been warning for a while that this year's monsoon rains will be 5-15 percent heavier. It is unclear though whether the comparison is being made with last two years or a general average. However, it says that 2.9 million people will be affected across the country, and that areas that normally receive low rainfall are expected to experience torrential downpours. This therefore would be the third consecutive year of devastating floods.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2012
It should serve as a reminder of the dire warnings of environmental scientists that Pakistan is among the countries most vulnerable to changing weather patterns caused by global warming. In other words, heavy rains and floods are to become a recurring problem that calls for a well thought-out longer-term action plan - something this country's planners and policymakers are averse to. The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) has been preparing a contingency plan for this season but on-the-ground progress is too slow.
NDMA is required to get funds that it has requested to carry out its work. Any delay may prove detrimental considering that the rain-laden monsoons have already arrived, and the NDMA needs much of this money to buy rescue and relief equipment. Time in this case is of essence. To use a trite but relevant cliché, a stitch in time saves nine. Proper and timely preventive measures can save a lot of trouble and money later. Notably, KP and Sindh suffered the most last year. In the case of the former much of the damage was caused by flashfloods, but Sindh had ample time to prepare for the impending floods. Yet all the provincial government could muster was a haphazard response, with the result that the disaster wreaked widespread havoc many areas remained inundated several months after the floods, rendering vast swathes of farmlands uncultivable.
A substantial number of people still remain displaced from their homes and livelihoods. The provincial government is now claiming it has taken necessary measures to minimise the damage that include cleaning and desilting of water canals and protective embankments. Hopefully, lessons have been learnt from last year's experience, and every effort made to ensure none of the past mistakes are repeated. The provincial government must also think about restoring the 'kutcha area' along the Indus River banks to its original purpose, which was to accommodate floodwaters but, for some time, it has been taken over by human habitations.