PESHAWAR: The draft monsoon contingency plan prepared by the Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) not only chalks out the vulnerability to weather anomalies in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, but also takes a realistic approach to identify existing gaps.
After the Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD) warned of intense monsoon that could last almost three months, PDMA built on a disaster profile of over a decade and divided the contingency plan into three phases, based on vulnerability.
The most vulnerable districts include Peshawar, Nowshera, Charsadda, DI Khan, Chitral, Swat, Shangla, Upper and Lower Dir and Kohistan. Lakki Marwat, Kohat, Karak, Haripur, Tank, Bannu and Malakand have been placed as moderately vulnerable, while Battagram, Torghar, Abbottabad, Mansehra, Hangu, Buner, Swabi and Mardan were termed low in terms of vulnerability.
However, keeping in view the shortcomings, the contingency plan stated that the existing flood early warning system of the Irrigation department could forecast floods between 24 and 48 hours in advance in Swat River, five to seven hours in Kabul River and 36 to 48 hours in Indus River at DI Khan.
This system does not provide sufficient time for evacuation of vulnerable communities as witnessed in the 2010 floods and others.
There are no arrangements to forewarn vulnerable communities of flash floods across the mountainous regions.
It also pinpoints development areas neglected for decades. More is expected from the PDMA, but little is done in terms of climate change mitigation and adaptation.
There are only two notable reservoirs in K-P, Warsak and Tarbela, it notes. The former lost its storage capacity long ago, while the live storage capacity of the latter has gone down to 6.77 MAF from 9.68. Around 30% decreased over the last 36 years.
Although efforts have been made, the river systems are not fully covered by the flood monitoring mechanism and therefore it is not possible to detect water overflow in a timely manner. Only areas close to Tarbela can be monitored, leaving little time for preparations.
The contingency plan also notes that of 270 flood protection projects, only 130 are either in decent condition or completed. There is also an acute shortage of flood early warning radars in K-P overall. The current arrangements rely on flood gauging through the telemetry system of Wapda and some basic system gauges installed by the K-P irrigation department.
This time, however, PDMA included all districts under its radar in an effort to make the best of whatever is available.
The contingency plan assumes that 354,203 households will be affected in case of high impact floods this year. If the intensity is medium, 118,068 households would be impacted, while 39,357 families will be vulnerable even if the impact is low.
The financial impact of any major flood in K-P could cost the provincial exchequer more than a whopping Rs11 billion. In addition, PDMA needs significant funds to sensitise the public.
The contingency plan has been prepared after a series of consultations with district administrations, provincial line departments, federal line agencies in the province, Pakistan Army engineers, 11 Corps Peshawar and humanitarian partners. PDMA Spokesperson Latifur Rehman told The Express Tribune that a draft policy was sent to the chief minister for approval.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 21st, 2016.