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LAHORE: The country would have been in a position to avoid widespread devastation caused by the recent flash floods had the recommendations of the judicial commission set up to investigate the 2010 flood been implemented in letter and spirit, according to sources in the Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD).

They said that the adverse effects of the recent floods could have been minimised if the commission’s proposals had been followed by the agencies and departments concerned.

The-then federal government of Pakistan People’s Party had constituted a judicial commission under the chairmanship of chief justice of the Lahore High Court, Justice Mansoor Ali Shah, to fix responsibility for the colossal losses inflicted by the floods in 2010.

The commission had subsequently pinned responsibility for the colossal losses on Punjab’s irrigation department and had prepared a strong-worded report to highlight the criminal negligence of the government departments involved. The report had also termed the visits of then Punjab chief minister Shehbaz Sharif and other VIPs to the flood-affected areas ‘counterproductive’ vis-à-vis the relief activities undertaken.

It had further pointed out that there was no law in place to regulate farming in riverbeds and proposed a ban on construction activities in areas close to rivers. The report had also underlined the need for saving lives instead of protecting the infrastructure and recommended the setting up of an early flood warning system and a modern set-up for forecasting weather patterns.

The provincial government’s poor response to an emergency had also been highlighted and with it the administration’s failure to alert the people to the impending catastrophe in a timely manner.

Moreover, there was no consultation with the local people so far as possible breaches in dykes were concerned, said the report. It squarely pinned blame for the 2010 floods on then irrigation secretary Rab Nawaz and two chief engineers Rao Arshad and Abdul Qadir and also recommended filing of criminal cases against them.

However, no such action was taken against them and Mr Nawaz kept securing promotions until he attained superannuation when he was in BPS-21.

The PMD sources said that during the recent floods Tehsildars in the areas that were subsequently affected badly had received reports about the coming floodwaters up to five days in advance, but they largely kept this information to themselves until the eleventh hour.

In the rural areas of Sindh many residents were alerted to the emerging situation just a couple of hours before floodwaters actually hit their homes.

The sources also said that the irrigation department’s personnel were not just involved in dereliction of duty but also in corrupt practices in and around rivers and canals of the country.

According to them, there is a strong need for enhancing capacity of the agencies and departments concerned in order to avoid catastrophes going forward. They also underlined the need for improving coordination among various departments for a timely and effective response to calamities.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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