Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa was yet again caught unaware and unprepared as monsoon rains lashed across the country, wreaking havoc on life and property.
A high-level meeting was held at Civil Secretariat Peshawar on Monday under the chair of Minister for Defence Production Rana Tanveer, who was directed by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to visit the province and assess the flood situation.
The huddle was attended by Commissioner Sahibzada Anees, Deputy Commissioner Zaheerul Islam, Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) Director General Atifur Rahman and FATA Disaster Management Authority (FDMA) Director Operations Farman Ali, among others.
During the meeting, the K-P government urged the federal authorities to install an ‘early warning system’ on certain strategic locations in the province to be better prepared to tackle and respond to flood-like situations before it is too late.
Despite disastrous floods in 2010 and 2012, no preventive measures have been put in place and over 25 people lost their lives in the past few days while many houses were swept away across the province.
“The upper parts of K-P are undergoing climate change and will face cloudbursts, thunderstorms and flash floods,” warned former PDMA director general and current deputy commissioner Zaheerul Islam. According to evaluations of the concerned department, rains will trigger flash floods but there will be no large-scale flooding, he added.
Briefing the meeting on behalf of the incumbent chief of the PDMA who assumed charge just a few days earlier, Islam said “the province is lacking an early warning system for floods and the radar system in DI Khan is an obsolete one.”
Rs251 million is yet to be released to make the Kalpani and Bara water channels safe via early warning system and proper embankments, said Islam, adding it was the Bara channel which caused most of the damage in Nowshera in 2010.
“Two years on, K-P is yet to receive the Doppler radar system which has already been approved in the Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) by the federal government. It is to be installed at Chitral and Cherat, Nowshera,” he informed.
Federal minister Rana Taveer said radars at both the said places would cost Rs500 million – a sum that has been approved but needs to be released.
He said the irrigation department only informs about floods once the water level crosses a certain mark. He quoted the example of the overflowing Budni Nullah which flooded nearby houses with 4-5 feet of water; the announcement made by local mosques of the impending danger came too late to take any substantive action.
In the event of large-scale damages, PDMA Director General Atifur Rahman said nearly Rs4 billion would be needed for relief activities. Sharing data of the losses incurred in the past few days in K-P, Rahman said besides certain fatalities across the province, a total of 3,000 people were affected in Peshawar alone, while 6,000 in Chitral, 2,000 in DI Khan, 1,000 in Bannu, 500 in Lakki Marwat and 100 people in Karak were also affected. “Assessment of damages to houses, standing crops and orchards is underway.”
FDMA Director Operation Farman Ali said a total of 77 houses were damaged in the recent floods in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata). Five people died in Frontier Region Tank and four deaths each were reported from Kurram and North Waziristan agencies, he added. The unofficial death toll, however, may be considerably higher.
“FDMA does not have the funds to cope with the flood situation,” stressed Ali, adding: “We have nothing to help flood-affected people with besides 2,500 tents.” Rs500 million for relief activities and Rs300 million for Disaster Risk Management is yet to be handed over to the FDMA, which comes under the purview of the federal government, he added.
Irrigation Secretary Akbar Khan said K-P’s share of Rs84.5 million to complete nine flood protection schemes in the last fiscal year was not released by the Federal Flood Commission (FFC) and the irrigation department had to complete the work using its own resources. He added Rs94.2 million is to be released by the FFC in the current fiscal year.
Later, Rana Tanveer assured participants of the meeting of making strong recommendations to the centre for release of funds along with setting up an early warning system. To a question regarding insufficient management of flood-affected people by concerned authorities in K-P, Tanveer said: “relief should be for survival not comfort.”
Published in The Express Tribune, August 6th, 2013.