PESHAWAR: With the provincial government finalising an emergency response plan for natural disasters amid flood warnings, the national disaster agency on Wednesday said that they had completed their preparations in this regard and were ready to assist the provincial government in the event of a natural calamity.
This was stated by the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) Chairman Lieutenant General Muhammad Afzal on Wednesday while addressing a news conference following his meeting with the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) Chief Minister Mahmood Khan and the provincial chief secretary.
“We are fully prepared to help and assist our people during any emergency,” Lt Gen Afzal said while flanked by officials from the K-P Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA).
The NDMA chief said that they have identified all potential sites in K-P where floods were expected, adding that they were in close contact with all relevant organisations including disaster relief, rescue departments and district administrations to avert loss lives and property in case of floods and other natural disasters.
Lt Gen Afzal said that Chitral, where there have been multiple glacial lake outburst floods (GLOFs) in recent weeks, was the most vulnerable district in the province in terms of natural disasters.
He added that the situation had been made precarious due to the accelerated melting of glaciers owing to global warming and climate change.
“There is no flood threat to Chitral at the moment but the situation is being closely monitored in the district,” he said, adding that they have devised a high-level team which includes members from NDMA, PDMA and other relevant departments.
This team, he said, will visit Chitral within a week to monitor glaciers and glacial situation to take safety and preemptive measures.
Trees, he said, play a key role in combating floods and that the chief minister has been urged to launch a special component of the ongoing Billion Trees Afforestation Project (BTAP) in Chitral to arrest the flow of floods and rainwater to protect districts further downstream from floods.
Talking about the restoration work in Balakot City, the NDMA chief said that the issue has been discussed with the K-P chief minister in detail and that work on the project is expected to resume and will be completed in line with the guidelines issued by the Supreme Court of Pakistan on a fast-track basis.
Asked about flooding in the coastal metropolis of Karachi, he said that the recent rains there were recorded at below-average levels. Explaining the flood-like situation in the city, he said that it was due to the fact that water channels were clogged with garbage and debris apart from encroachments.
Moreover, he said that the construction of illegal structures and extra embankments along watercourses and rainy water nullahs impede the flow of water and increase the chances of urban flooding.
He said that the provincial and local government departments need to work swiftly in clearing watercourses of garbage and plastic waste.
The chairman urged people not to throw plastic bags and other wastes in water channels and ensure its cleanliness for the smooth flow of floodwaters.
Noting that Pakistan is ranked seven out of the top 10 countries in the world which are confronting climate change, he said that the NDMA has started work on a Comprehensive Disaster Management Response plan for quick and better management of natural disasters besides enhancing the capacity of field staff of line departments.
To strengthen the capacity of field staff, he said that NDMA was working on establishing a National Disaster Management Centre (NDMC) in the first phase. It will be later upgraded to the National Disaster Management University (NDMU) to cater to modern-day challenges.
Earlier, Lt Gen Afzal was briefed by the K-P Relief and Resettlement Secretary and PDMA director-general on contingency plans, preparedness for monsoon, ongoing and future plans, working of Rescue 1122, former FDMA and PaRRSA ongoing and future projects.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 1st, 2019.