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What needs to be done to manage floods better
By: Shakeel Ahmad Ramay

The floods are wreaking havoc on the economic and social fabric of
the country. Millions of people have been displaced and the livelihoods
of several millions are at stake. The land which is under water is the
prime source of agricultural produce and home to major industries of the
country.

Apparently, it seems we have not learnt any lesson from the past.
The missing links in policy and implementation plans are still missing
after four years of the 2010 flood. Reports by flood commissions are
gathering dust in the shelves and the government is giving lame excuses
as to why the reports are not being attended to. Institutional capacity
is still a grave concern despite the fact that the commission
recommended a strengthening of institutions.

The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) and the Federal
Flood Commission are two main bodies at the federal level to tackle
floods. The flood commission is facing serious problems of financial and
human resources. The capacity and capability of the flood commission
has been eroded and all governments remained consistent in ignoring the
flood commission. The flood commission has been turned to talk shop for
discussing flood management and suggesting policies but there are no
serious efforts to combat the challenges at the ground level.

The NDMA is another national authority which was created to prevent,
mitigate and respond to disasters, including flood. The NDMA has always
been a prime agency for governments for combating disasters since its
creation. The NDMA has attracted a decent amount of resources from all
governments and is working on building the capacity of its staff.
However, the authority is still lagging behind from its perceived
objectives and responsibilities.

First of all, the top management always belongs to bureaucrats
instead of experts and technical people. The technical know-how of
bureaucrats is limited and therefore, they are unable to devise policies
and implementation according to required standards. There is another
problem associated with the involvement of bureaucrats; it creates
hindrance to the development of capacity of the NDMA, because
bureaucrats move frequently from one post and ministry to another post
and ministry.

The NDMA and flood commissions are highly centralised in terms of
decision-making and disbursing of financial resources. Although the NDMA
is expanding its base to district level, financial and decision-making autonomy is very weak and low.
The centralisation of the NDMA and the flood commission is a real
problem. Weak infrastructure and institutional setup, limited to the
district level, further weakens the capacity of districts to combat the
challenge. The NDMA, in 2013, worked on the Monsoon Contingency Plan and
organised a series of workshops for capacity-building and raising
awareness.

These workshops were aimed at instilling awareness in policymakers
but the common people were left without any help or way forward.
Moreover, district management structure remained the same. The district
management structure is key to combating the challenge of flood and
other disasters. Decentralisation can help us make timely decisions and
divert essential financial resources.

Apart from this, an empowered district management structure can also
help develop a long-term plan for districts by keeping in mind geography
of districts. It will help to identify the safe places and evacuation
plans during emergencies and disasters. District management will be in a
better place to negotiate and plan to mitigate impacts of disasters due
to their presence in districts and close interaction with local people.

A quick glance at the work done by the NDMA tells us there are a good
number of policy documents and implementation plans. The most relevant
policy to the current scenario is the Monsoon Contingency Plan.
The plan was designed to address the issue of flood. However, the
present floods suggest that this plan could not help to tackle the
crises. Although the metrological department predicted that there would
be a spill of erratic rain. The government, including the flood
commission and the NDMA, could not prepare to respond to the challenge.

Another dimension to the issue is climate change and its role in
flood. Everyone talks about the impact on climate change in relation to
flood but there is no seriousness about combating the challenge of
climate change. Institutional framework is in pathetic form and the Ministry of Climate Change had been shrunk into a division.
There is no minster and for some time, it has only had a part-time
secretary. Financial resources are extremely low and there is no
willingness from the government to enhance the capacity or provide human
resource.

Constitutional amendments in 2011 further weakened the efforts to
combat climate change impacts. After the Eighteenth Amendment, the
ministry of environment was devolved, then the ministry of national
disaster management was created and climate change became an affiliated
department. After a strong voice from civil society, a ministry of
climate change was created once again. The present government reversed
the decision and the ministry has shrunk to the status of a division.

The government claims there is no need for a full-fledged ministry,
as climate change or environment can be dealt with a division. The
government needs to understand that climate change is not merely an
environmental issue. It is development issue, it is issue of livelihood,
it issue of national security and most importantly it is issue of human
security. The present floods’ impacts on crops, livestock,
infrastructure and industry tell the story of its relevance to economy.
The government should take climate change seriously and revisit the
decision of devolution of the ministry and a full-fledged ministry
should be created at the national level. The ministry should have the
mandate to develop a national adaptation plan and for its
implementation. An adaptation plan is crucial to combating the
challenges of climate change because it allows to plan against the
unknown. To accomplish the task, the government should provide the
necessary financial resources to the ministry of climate change.
Moreover, the government should also invest in development of quality
human resource, which is necessary to combating the challenge of climate
change.

However, the current scenario and activities of the government tell
another story. The government does not seem serious about tackling the
issue on a permanent basis rather, the government taking the natural
disaster as a photo-op. The best performance of government ministers can
be watched on talk shows. It looks like those ministers have a talk
show competition to take as much as possible time on talk shows rather
than to spend time to plan for long-term policy. I fear if the
negligence continues, this natural disaster can turn into a human
disaster. So there is the need for focused and timely efforts from the
government, otherwise if a disaster strikes the government will be
running from here to there without any solution.

Source: http://tribune.com.pk/story/762723/what-needs-to-be-done-to-manage-floods-better/

This article was originally published at:

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint or stance of SDPI.