The losses from the floods in 2011 were greater than the losses incurred from the seemingly more disastrous floods of 2010, according to Dr Sono Khangharani, who is the chief executive officer of Thardeep, a non-profit organisation.
Speaking at the launch of 2011 Floods: Impacts, Causes and Repercussions, Dr Khangharani said: “From a development perspective, more houses, livestock and crops were destroyed and evacuation plans were not executed.” The areas affected in 2010 were mono-crop areas whereas the 2011 disaster zones were multi-crop areas.
The book on the floods was compiled and edited by Zulfiqar Halepoto and is a collection of news reports, op-ed articles, analysis and blogs culled from the mainstream media and internet sources to help provide a record of documentation that can help in future preparations for floods.
The chief guests at the launch were reputed professionals from various fields, including retired Supreme Court Justice Fakhruddin G. Ebrahim, Hilal-e-Imtiaz recipient Arif Hasan, Sitara-e-Imtiaz recipient Dr Abdul Ghaffar Billo, renowned economist Dr Kaiser Bengali, veteran journalist Dr Najma Sadiq, Sindh Assembly Speaker Nisar Khuhro, British Deputy High Commissioner Francis Campbell and Awami Jamhoori Party leader Abrar Qazi.
The launch quickly turned from a placid book launch into a more fiery exchange between the chief guests as Arif Hasan took the podium, declaring that without building institutions like Thardeep at a local level, rehabilitation of these areas can never be achieved. Thardeep was founded on Hasan’s advice to build an institution to research the area after the 1986-1991 drought. “Relief and rehabilitation is only successful when it is de-centralised and at the moment, local government and agencies are underfunded and weak.” Citing his experience in local, national and international disasters, he stated in absolute terms, ”Centralisation never works.”
Dr Kaiser Bengali sprang to the defence of the government’s performance by blaming the media for biased coverage of the 2010 floods. The government did a better job than was portrayed as evidenced by the low mortality rate.
This notion was quickly quashed by Dr Najma Sadiq. “Mortality rates don’t tell you anything about the extent of the suffering women have had to endure,” she said. “Mortality rates and images of the floods on TV provide fleeting glimpses into the suffering of flood [survivors] but there is no complete picture of the indescribable suffering [they] endure.”
Sadiq said that one of the biggest obstacles in getting these people back on their feet is that they are not allowed to help themselves. She alleged that someone with money or land in the area always takes charge and interferes in work, and without land one has no power to progress. She said many such powerful mafias create an NGO to legitimise their activities and therefore she advised the government to take up land reforms in the province.
Speaker Khuhro meticulously took notes throughout, noting down criticism and smiling when his government was criticised but his smile turned into a bewildered frown when Abrar Qazi of the AWP proudly proclaimed, “The Sindh government is the worst government in Pakistan,” eliciting awkward laughter from the audience.
Khuhro accepted much of the criticism levelled against the government and highlighted some of its successes. He blamed many infrastructural obstacles on governments before his government’s time and said he would try to implement some changes in the law, such as leasing land to villagers who currently do not have any legal ownership to their land.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 10th, 2012.