It is worrisome that as the monsoon season draws near, the government appears just as ill-prepared to handle the impact of torrential rains as it has been for the past two years. Are the lessons of the devastating floods of 2010 and 2011 lost on us? The past two years have clearly shown that unless one is prepared to help oneself, the international community will not be willing to lend a helping hand — or send aid money. The 2011 floods, which affected more than 8.8 million people and killed nearly 400, constituted a major humanitarian disaster, yet sympathy for the sufferers was hard to come by with the appeal for $365 million for humanitarian assistance met by a sluggish, stingy response from the international community.
There were several reasons for this, none of which have been addressed. Firstly, the Pakistani government had failed to invest in adequate preventive measures, especially in light of the fact that the country had suffered from a similar situation just a year before. Secondly, the widespread perception was that relief funds were misused because of pervasive corruption, mismanagement and a lack of coordination among the different relief agencies. Hence, the reluctance to donate. The government — and in particular, the National Disaster Management Commission — still has time to prepare for the eventuality of torrential rains this year but whether it actually does something remains to be seen. Unfortunately, according to some reports, nearly 30 per cent of the flood-hit area in Sindh is still inundated from last year’s rains and such is the lack of foresight, that the government again plans to use schools as relief camps despite the fact that it disrupts studies.
Of course, no amount of planning can stop a natural calamity from happening. But the relevant authorities can at least make sure that when the worst happens, they have all the instruments in place to minimise human suffering. Strengthening embankments, diverting water flow and raising awareness among the rural population should be the rudimentary measures. Beyond that, the government needs to identify the most vulnerable areas and discourage settlements there and employ better water management techniques.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 3rd, 2012.