It’s that time of year again, with the monsoon rains starting to come down hard and fast, and bringing with them the havoc that we have all so come to dread. This year, too, they seem to have started on an ominous note, with almost 20 dead already so far, with officials warning that the worse is yet to come.
The torrential rains up north have triggered flash floods in some areas, and, according to reports, parts of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, Gilgit-Baltistan, Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Fata are so far among the worst affected. Fatalities have also occurred in Punjab. Property has been destroyed and many people have vacated their homes, with more expected to follow. Up north, with the water level of the Warsak Dam expected to go up, more damage is expected and disaster management authorities have geared into action, with food and relief items directed towards affected areas. In Karachi, emergency has been declared, with at least two children dead, no electricity in most areas, and commuters stranded on roads.
Given that heavy flooding in the country has become, unfortunately, a regular, almost yearly occurrence, one would like to see some evidence of lessons learnt from the previous years. Evidence of preparedness in terms of ensuring that the negative effects of floods are minimised would go a long way. Indeed, there have been instances of the same family having their houses destroyed and livelihoods affected in two consecutive years due to floods; forced to cope with the same disaster repeatedly even as they had barely recovered from its effects of the previous year.
Such a situation should not be allowed. And if indeed, this year, too, mistakes of the past are being seen repeated, serious inquiry must be made into the matter. The same, of course, holds true for relief and rehabilitation efforts. While it is good that the disaster management authorities are already responding with relief efforts, one hopes that the duplicity and disorganisation seen at times in the past is not repeated and funds and aid directed where it is most needed. This cannot be stressed enough. If such efforts are not carried out responsibly, we face the danger of facing more problems, such as waterborne diseases that have the potential to lead to more deaths than the floods directly cause.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 5th, 2013.
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