Just as we were beginning to believe that this time round the monsoon season may pass by without creating major disaster, we have been proved wrong. Heavy rains which fell in Upper Sindh immediately after Eidul Fitr have destroyed acres of crops and caused the loss of at least 20 lives. Most people died when the roofs or walls of their homes collapsed as a result of the deluge. As always, it was those who live in poor quality mud housing who suffered the most, with mud structures caving in to bury residents. Khairpur district has suffered worst of all, but there has also been extensive damage in other areas. The loss of the sugar cane crop is likely to hurt farmers; some are still recovering from last year’s flood disaster which wiped out livelihoods for millions. Paddy and vegetable crops have also been hit. Areas of Balochistan, including Jaffarabad district, have also suffered. Heavy rains triggered torrents in the hilly terrain, forcing people to flee to higher ground. Most have received no help in doing so.
Of course nothing can be done to prevent rain. But as a number of humanitarian agencies had warned, the lessons from 2010’s flood havoc lay before us like an open book. We choose to look away from the pages. Better disaster preparedness, good planning on what was to be done and early warnings to people could have helped save a great deal of misery. We have already seen this in Badin on the Sindh coast where heavy rains last month caused the displacement of thousands and left others marooned. Torrents triggered by rains also caused at least 50 deaths in the Kohistan district of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. We now have several entities at the national level that have been tasked with dealing with natural calamity. As the scenes of this Eid from Sindh and other parts of the country suggest, most of these organisations have been reactive instead of being proactive, which perhaps limits their efficacy. Furthermore, it seems that we did not learn much from last year’s devastating floods, especially since the affected area happens to be, by and large, the same. Perhaps now the government’s eyes will open and it will ensure that the disaster management bodies do a better job the next time around.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 5th, 2011.