Swollen Kabul River threatens more flooding

Displaced people desperately plead for help as water takes all their belongings

Rizwan Shahzad August 29, 2022
A man balances himself as he, along with others, walks on a flooded road, following rains and floods during the monsoon season in Charsadda, Pakistan August 27, 2022. REUTERS


The Kabul river was flowing up to the brim in the Nowshera district on Sunday, with its water carrying belongings of the people from upstream areas and keeping the people on their toes, lest any major disaster happens in the wake of high flood.

Standing on the Kabul River Bridge in Nowshera Kalan, one could see a submerged under-construction mosque with water nearly touching the ceiling fans inside the prayer hall.

The mosque is visible only through its rooftop and its minarets.

Adjacent to the mosque is another building. The name atop its main gates tells that it is a school. The ground floors of several nearby houses have disappeared in the floodwater, so have the streets and alleyways, which all have been inundated.

The recent rains and the floods have unleashed a wave of death and destruction up and down the country. The devastation began from Balochistan and then moved to Sindh – the worst-affected provinces – but for the past few days, the focus is shifting from the south to the north – Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P).

The divine fury is taking its toll on Nowshera and several other districts of K-P. Now, the riverine floods have started making their way, overflowing the banks and spilling out into adjacent low-lying, dry land in parts of the province.

In Nowshera, the people are on the edge because of the rising level of the Kabul River. They appeared furious for being left alone. Even those lodged in tents at government buildings complained of not being provided basic facilities.

There are many others, who are simply overburdened with the care of the animals they managed to save after floods devoured their homes and crops in the fields. “Managing fodder and water for the animals is becoming extremely difficult,” said a white-bearded Buland Khan, as he tried to fix his fodder cutter.

Buland along with several others is taking care of roughly 1,000 animals displaced by floods being catered near a roadside. He complained that fodder price for a mini trolley was costing Rs10,000 to Rs11,000, roughly twice the price it cost before the floods.

During a tour of area, it transpired that apart from a team of veterinarians and policemen deployed at the bridge, there was no visible presence of the government officials in Nowshera Kalan, especially when the residents were finding it hard to adjust to the new realities.

Women living in tents felt embarrassed for not having proper washrooms, clean drinking water and enough food for their children. A woman said sometimes, when nature called, she would go behind a tree or somewhere else to relieve herself.

“Neither are there any washrooms nor any other facilities…sometimes we relieve behind trees and sometimes elsewhere; how can this go on,” she said, without giving her name. “It was really difficult to live with children in a tent lacking basic necessities like food, water and washrooms.”

The woman had teary eyes when she narrated that her house was under water and all the furniture and other belongings were lost. A similar ordeal was narrated by Salman, who had no time to salvage anything from his house, when floods breached an embankment nearly.
“We had to run for our lives as the water suddenly entered the area after the breach. We couldn’t take anything with us,” said Salman, a resident of Shah Hussaini. “The clothes I’m wearing belong to my cousin,” he added.

Displaced or not, the local residents are furious with the authorities and politicians. Malik Wahab Khan, a local resident, complained that officials and political leaders were coming to them only for the photoshoot and nothing else.

They should’ve helped people save their lives and belongings, just the way people save their political capital. Khan said. “We need them among us; we want them to help us move our furniture and belongings; we want them to feed us,” he demanded.

A resident of Aba Khel Chowk, who works for a Chinese company at the Mohmand Dam, reminisced about what happened when the floods had previously inundated the district. He said he had seen UN envoy “Angelina Jolie helping flood victims” by handing over food, water and money the last time.

Jolie, being the UNHCR’s goodwill ambassador, had visited Nowshera in 2010 to highlight the sufferings and needs of the flood victims who had lost their homes, belongings, crops and cattle and their livelihoods. “I don’t know if she would come back but those ruling us should at least visit us,” he said.