Amna Faiq Ali
Monsoon floods are wreaking havoc all across Pakistan. According to unofficial statistics nearly one-third of the country is under water while one in seven Pakistanis is displaced and staying under open sky.
The floods have affected 116 districts with 66 districts of them being officially declared ‘calamity hit’.
No doubt that the primary reason besides this natural calamity is more than the 700 percent monsoon rains and climate change. However, it does not obscure the fact that situation is also a result of our administrative failures.
In Swat district, which is one of the worst hit districts, illegal constructions on encroached land on the riverbank was the responsible for the most of the destruction. Authorities failed to remove these encroachments despite several drives and court orders.
In Punjab, the most affected area is Suliman range and the destruction in the area even surpasses Pakistan Super Floods 2002 despite recent floods intensity being less than that of what it was a decade back.
The main reason for this, as pointed out by the Asian Development Bank in 2013 that there was dire need of flood protection works. However, these protection works were only approved last year and even a year later authorities were unable to start construction.
Similarly, In Balochistan, 30 out of 32 districts are severely affected by this flood. Balochistan is always at high risk of flash flooding and there was a suggestion floated in 2013 that riverine areas in the way should have the early warning system. Besides, it was also suggested that school buildings should be constructed in a way that not only the people can take shelter in them along with their livestock.
However, as it the floods rolled over, schools in Balochistan were first to be destroyed by the raging torrents.
Similarly, even nine years later there is no sign of the early warning systems.
Urban flooding, for which the better term is “administrative failure”, is considered the primary reason behind the flooding in Sindh, but with that, another primary reason is failure to construct a single major dam in the past four decades.
Absence of dams allows rainwater to fill up the Indus River quickly. Just a little more rain than usual and the Indus River starts overflowing which ultimately ends up in flooding of different intensities.
Though Sindh constructed a few smaller dams, those are nothing to deal with the havoc. The only possible solution is the construction of flood dams and an effective drainage system in the riverine areas of Kashmour, Shikarpur, Larkana, Nawabshah and in Southern Sindh from Tandu Muhammad Khan to Badin and Thatha.
After the flood, the next challenge will be a prolonged drought. Pakistan urgently needs large water storage in Potohar basin or upstream of Mianwali. The need of the hour is to learn lessons from this situation, losses and take measures so as to avoid the repeat of the same in future as well.