After the July 29 flood destroyed Sial Khan’s entire village [Gandaree] near the Kabul River in Nowshera, he no longer feels like going back. “I will not rebuild my house here. Never along any river,” he says.
There are others who share Khan’s sentiments since the Kabul River’s banks burst that Thursday morning causing human misery on a massive scale, flooding large swathes of land and displacing thousands of people.
There is no official number of the people who have drowned or have been displaced so far. However, locals estimate that approximately 400,000 people have been displaced from the total population of 1 million in the district. “This number may rise as we are still counting the heads,” PPP MPA Liaquat Shabab told The Express Tribune, “Hundreds of families who moved into their friends and relatives’ homes on top of the hills are yet to be identified.”
Apart from a few villages namely Manki Sharif, Ziarat Kaka Sahib, Badrashi, Risalpur, Zandai situated on the hills of Nowshera and the Army Supply Corps Colony, over 29 villages in all the four provincial constituencies (PF 12, 13, 14, 15) in the district were affected by the floods.
Pir Sabaq, Gandaree and Dagoora are the three villages that were completely washed away, while Nowshera Kalan, Nawa Kalay, Misri Banda, Akora Khattak, Khat Kalay, Aman Garh, Pir Piai and Khiskhi were partially damaged. 40 per cent of the Nowshera cantonment has also been destroyed.
Entire villages have disappeared as houses and schools have been sunk into the ground while thousands of acres of crops land and graveyards remain submerged. “The river you see here is flowing peacefully right now. Just ten days ago it wiped away all the villages situated on its banks,” says a local, busy draining water from the Madni Masjid, the only concrete structure standing.
While some locals at least have a partially damaged village they are able to visit, most say they have lost their identity. “I was a resident of the Pir Sabaq village that no longer exists,” says Adnan, a tailor. “Most of my relatives are visiting their partially destroyed houses every day hoping to rebuild them once the monsoon season is over…but where do I go?”
Feeling the economic pinch
As the messy and difficult work of cleaning up slowly starts in the district, traders are shocked at the loss of their goods in the market and fear for their livelihood. Along the GT Road, which is the main road that connects villages and towns across the district, piles of damaged goods can be seen, each mound of trash a symbol of more anguish.
“Had we received some kind of warning about the flood, we could have managed to salvage some of our goods,” says Sial Khan, who also owns a cloth shop at Kathak Plaza. He has suffered a loss of Rs2.5 million as his entire shop in the basement was flooded.
“No one will buy these soiled pieces,” said Khan as he continued to cart out the merchandise he now calls trash.
About 60 to 70 shops in the Kathak Plaza, which is mainly a cloth market, were flooded with water causing a damage of Rs4 to 5 crore, estimate traders.
“My village is no more; the goods at my shop are destroyed. It will take me at least a year to recover and cost me hundreds of thousands of rupees,” says Sial Khan, begging for some answers. “Tell me, how should I even start, where do I start...I haven’t slept properly in this past week because I’ve been constantly thinking and planning how to move on, but I get no answers.”
Seeing the government’s poor response to the flood and their inability to provide victims with basics like food and shelter, villagers have little hope that it will compensate for damage of goods and loss of income.
“There’s only so much the government can do!” exclaims MPA Shabab, who, after nine days, paid the first visit to his area yesterday. “Khyber-Pukhtunkhwa was on the frontline in the 2005 earthquake, then it fought against terrorism in 2009 and now the floods – we wonder how many more challenges the Pakhtuns have to face.”
Published in The Express Tribune, August 10th, 2010.
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