Third consecutive flooding disaster

Published: October 8, 2012
The writer is a development consultant and a PhD student at the University of Melbourne

The writer is a development consultant and a PhD student at the University of Melbourne

This was the third year in a row that we have witnessed devastating inundations across different parts of the country. This year, the floods have killed over 400 people and left several thousand people injured. Hundreds of thousands of people across thousands of villages have been displaced from their homes. Overall, nearly five million people are estimated to have been impacted by this latest flood over the past six weeks due to crop, livestock and infrastructure damage.

Last year, flooding impacted over nine million people. The year before, floods left a fifth of the country submerged, affecting more than 20 million people.

The devastation caused by two previous years of flooding should have demonstrated the apparent need for increasing our capacity to contend with natural disasters. Yet, provincial governments remained hesitant to allocate sufficient funds for disaster relief during the current year’s budget.

Given this lacklustre attitude, it is not surprising to note complaints pouring in from flood-hit areas — especially from more remote districts such as Jaffarabad and Naseerabad — due to insufficient resources available to provide immediate relief to the affected.

Earlier flood damage to homes, crops, livestock, health centres, schools and roads had already pushed multitudes of households in already poor and neglected districts to the point of despair. Now, access to basic facilities will be further diminished due to yet another year of flooding.

The performances of both, the government and donor agencies, in terms of disaster management, leave much to be desired. After the devastating 2005 earthquake, UN agencies helped create the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) and have continued working closely with the NDMA ever since. Nonetheless, despite seven years of its existence, even a moderately effective disaster risk management system has not yet been put in place at the provincial and district levels. Accountability systems to ensure that aid for disasters actually reaches the most deserving victims also merits more attention.

Additionally, there is an urgent need to prevent the gross acts of departmental negligence, which have compounded the damage, instead of mitigating or controlling it. For instance, irrigation department officials have been found complicit in canal breaches aimed at protecting large landowners at the cost of inundating the land of poor villagers. The delayed response in regulating flow of the Dera Ghazi Khan Canal during this year’s flooding also unleashed massive damage on the district’s infrastructure.

An increasing number of analysts are now pointing out how years of unthinking development and neglect of natural drainage systems of Pakistan’s major rivers are responsible for these increasingly severe instances of flooding, as well as for the increasing problems of waterlogging and salinity.

Even donor-funded projects, such as the Taunsa barrage rehabilitation have been criticised for causing massive flooding in Muzaffargarh. If such projects are, in fact, determined to have exacerbated the flooding, then international agencies, which funded these projects must also accept their share of responsibility for inadequate environmental impact assessments. The agencies must also share the burden of rectifying flaws and reversing the damage caused by the flaws. As things stand, however, the real price of institutional neglect and incapacity is being paid by poor people with the least responsibility for initiating unthinking development plans or for exacerbating climate changes behind the natural disasters, which are wreaking havoc on their already distressed lives.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 9th, 2012.

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Reader Comments (4)

  • naeem khan Manhattan,Ks
    Oct 9, 2012 - 6:40AM

    What do you expect from this incompetent government, they are looking after themselves and trying to figure out how to stay 5 more years. How could any one be accountable in this government when they are busy deflecting and willfully negating the decision of the highest court of the land. Their main goal is to survive and then brag about it later to the nation. Is any body will heed your advice or take the criticism to their heart, I doubt it very much. Thank you for bringing this issue in the forefront and the misery and devastation those poor villagers are facing.


  • Tanwir Ahmed
    Oct 9, 2012 - 11:06AM

    this is silly. what is this great consultant saying. do we need to make investments to manage extreme natural disasters. mr.ali we are a poor country. i wonder what they are teaching you in australia? you clearly have no idea of the irrigation network in the country. somethings you just cant help. just ask london, germany and many other cities around the world


  • yousaf khan
    Oct 9, 2012 - 1:20PM

    it is the sole responsibility of govt to allocate suffecient funds for the effective role of ndma and supervisory work for the rehabilitation of people . Every year we face severe flow of water which damages our infrastructure and lives but no strategy and planning could be seen. It is the clear ineffeciency of govt. Institutions.


  • sars
    Oct 9, 2012 - 2:23PM

    @Tanwir Ahmed:
    We are too poor to spend any money on fixing dam breaches and creating spillways away from settlements, but we are not too poor to have funded top of the line bullet proof cars for our elected representatives. Neither are we too poor to have them jet set all around the world, with multiple benefits on our expense.
    We are not too poor to keep inducting new sifarshi recruits into our failing govt institutions.

    The bottom line is we are too poor to do anything to improve the life of the common man but rich enough to improve the quality of life of the elite.


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