According to the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), the coming monsoon, starting from July, would bring more rain than the country had experienced during the last two consecutive catastrophic years, i.e. 2010 and 2011. It suggests that monsoon 2012 may trigger floods and affect some 29 million people across the country.
The NDMA also issued specific flood warning to Sindh provincial authorities. The risk of floods would increase manifold, especially due to the fact that despite spending Rs17 billion on the repair of dykes and canal banks in Sindh after the floods of 2010 and 2011 the irrigation infrastructure is still in bad shape. Moreover, many of the displaced persons in Sindh are still shelter less or settled in flood prone riverine beds.
High intensity rains over a short period of time would not only affect Sindh, but other parts of the country, including Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. There would be a greater risk of seasonal watercourses getting flooded, threatening parts of Peshawar, Swat, Nowshera, and Mardan districts.
Delayed monsoon is not a good omen for the agriculture sector of KP. It will have a negative effect on winter crops in several parts of the province. Besides the above mentioned four districts, the NDMA has identified Charsadda and Dera Ismail Khan as prone to natural calamity in next monsoon.
After the tragic earthquake and devastating floods of 2010, one was expecting that our institutions and authorities would be prepared for any other uncertainty. However, the way Sindh suffered during 2011 monsoon reflects that we as a nation are determined not to learn any lesson from our mistakes.
After 2010 floods, a team of Chinese experts suggested that the narrow span of Khairpur-Larkana bridge was the main cause in unduly holding water between Gudu and Sukkur barrage which inundated half of Sindh and almost the entire rice growing area.
It is pity that despite the passage of two years the authorities have failed to redesign and widen this bridge. No one is able to answer where the excess water, which will again be trapped between Gudu and Sukkur barrage this year, would be discharged.
Old natural drains are still non functional and faulty outfall drain networks might again cause widespread damages after the rains. Despite the promulgation of “Sindh Irrigation (Amendment) Act 2011” to declare encroachments on waterways a crime, heavy encroachment on drains in Sindh is yet another reason to get worried about the miseries of people who would be trapped in water after the massive rains. On top of it, the politically motivated decisions to save the lands of influential people by breaching the dykes of river Indus at wrong places may create havoc.
It is predicted that if heavy rains struck, Umerkot, Jhuddo, Naukot, Digri, Pangrio, Mirpurkhas and Sanghar would suffer a great deal and Badin and catchement area of LBOD would be devastated.
As far as the KP is concerned, after the 2010 floods, a contingency plan was approved and it was recommended that the Met Department should enhance capacity of weather forecasting station in Peshawar, install radar system at Cherat in Nowshera district, improve all observatories, establish flash flood forecasting centre for Kalpani in Mardan district and other vulnerable areas and increase capacity of line departments.
Instead of installation of latest forecasting system all future plans have been dumped in files. Due to unavailability of latest forecasting system in the province the Peshawar centre would depend on Lahore and Islamabad centres or some friendly countries for obtaining weather data.
The situation in Punjab, especially in Southern Punjab is not ideal either. Irrigation infrastructure is extremely vulnerable, canals and barrages are silted reducing their maximum water carrying capacity, and elites who pressurised the authorities to breach the canal banks to save their lands are as powerful as they were in 2010.
Let us admit that natural calamities are unavoidable. Rising temperature, seasonal extremes, global warming, and abundance or scarcity of water is a global phenomenon and we are not an exception to it. What matters the most is how we respond to different natural phenomenon. In the absence of right set of policies and practices, the natural calamities turn into human disasters and this is what we have been observing in Pakistan.
Besides the above mentioned challenges, the issues that still remain to be addressed is institutionalisation of disaster preparedness. After the 18th Amendment, disaster preparedness is the responsibility of provincial governments.
We have provincial disaster management authorities which are inadequately equipped. We have NDMA which is not clear about its mandate. We have Federal Flood Commission which is non functional. We have provincial irrigation departments which are marred by corruption charges and we don’t have local government institutions to facilitate the decision making at grassroots level.
Disaster prevention includes plans ready beforehand; bringing all the involved stakeholders on board; ensuring the proper operation and maintenance of irrigation structures, creating but also operating and maintaining organisations for disaster preparedness — all these are facets of governance.
While government refers to planning and decision-making by the state and its institutions, the notion of “governance” takes a different look. How are decisions made within a certain society or nation? Who is involved in these decision-making processes? And who has which powers to decide; on which evidence is planning based and which planning are taken as basis for decision-making.
We ought to remember that nature is not against the people of Pakistan. We are facing the consequences of flawed policies and weak actions and we would keep on getting hurt until at a societal level we are mature enough to discuss the real reasons behind our state of affairs openly and candidly.
The writer is executive director of Sustainable Development Policy Institute. He is contactable at firstname.lastname@example.org
This article was originally published at: The News
The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint or stance of SDPI.