A lesson to learn from the floods

Every cloud has a silver lining and the floods also bring many opportunities for Pakistan to build upon.

Moin M Fudda September 26, 2010
A lesson to learn from the floods

Although our country is still reeling from sprinting waters of the worst floods, that is only one side of the story. Every cloud has a silver lining and the floods, having claimed many lives and caused displacements and destruction, have also brought many opportunities that our nation can leverage. First, it is an opportunity afforded to us by nature to ponder and reflect upon our past policies related to water conservation and building of water reservoirs. If we don’t awaken and reflect now, then when will we? We are an energy-starved nation and will create electricity only if we put wanton waters on a tight leash. Nations get united in calamities and catastrophes and which bigger calamity or catastrophe are we still waiting for? What if the next monsoon rains repeat the same behaviour?

Second, floods distribute large amounts of suspended river sediment over vast areas. In many areas, this sediment helps replenish valuable topsoil components to agricultural lands and can keep the elevation of a land mass above sea level. The Indus River will refresh and reshape its river bed and may transfer rich sediments to the canals linked with it, in the process shaking up the soil to a sufficient depth, oxygenating it and restoring its strength. Lands, severely struck by floods, will produce more crops in the next seasons.

Many areas are facing problems with water salinity and acidic potable water. Reservoirs of flood water will help push salinity and acids to a sufficient depth into the water beds. The water beds in northern Sindh and southern Punjab provinces are losing their levels and are slipping downward incessantly. The recent floods will help increase the surface of water beds to the required level.

Third, another area where floods have played havoc is livestock. According to estimates, over 100,000 cows, buffaloes, goats, sheep, horses, camels and donkeys have been lost and 3,000 fish farms and 2,000 poultry farms destroyed across the country. For economic empowerment, besides providing shelter, there is a greater need of livestock and therefore it is an appropriate opportunity to import best breeds of animals and distribute them among farmers.

Fourth, with destruction of the infrastructure such as roads, bridges, telephone and electricity poles, there is a bright economic opportunity for sectors related to construction like cement, bricks, paint, iron, etc. Internally Displaced People whose main livelihood hinged on agriculture or livestock could find immediate jobs in the construction sector giving them temporary relief from unemployment caused by loss of crops. The floods are providing bright opportunities of consistent employment for unskilled labour over the next at least five years.

Fifth, the irrigation sector of Pakistan was already in a shambles before the floods. The slippage of water upstream and inability to reach the needy areas was a hallmark of the system. According to irrigation expert, Idrees Rajput, “Water levels in Sindh rose to similar high floods in 1992 and 1976 but the impact was not as huge. This time, flooding has been exacerbated only due to decades of government corruption and neglect (in irrigation departments).” That is a great opportunity to raise and re-build the entire system of irrigation utilising the latest technologies. Private investments can be wooed to build and operate the systems.

To safeguard the interests of young and upcoming generations, the need of the hour is to absorb this catastrophe with patience, wisdom, good planning and implementation instead of continuous squabbles.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 27th, 2010.


akhtar hasnain | 13 years ago | Reply Asa lam-o-alakum. The best thing is to think about future and utilized nature for betterment of humanity. Why we not built water reservoirs? If funds are not available , may be built on B O T biases with the collaboration of private public partnership but it should be made for flood control , electricity generation continue availability of water for irrigation. Thank you very much for this good article.
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