We have not recovered as a nation from the events of 2020 when the epidemic and lockdown changed our lives. Almost every Pakistani knew someone in his or her circle of friends or relatives who had died because of Covid-19. The year 2021 was not as bad as the year 2020, but the few months of rain did cause havoc. The monsoon season of 2022, with its constant rain from July to August, has once again pushed the country to the edge of calamity. Parts of Sindh, Punjab, and Baluchistan have been declared red zones due to flooding.Pictures and video footage taken by residents in Sindh and Baluchistan present a bleak scenario. Villages have been washed away as millions were forced to migrate to other areas for safety. According to data released by the National Disaster Management Authority, Government of Pakistan, over 900 people have lost their lives, and more than 1,300 have been injured. It also shared that nearly 3,100 kilometers of roads have been destroyed, including 145 bridges and 581,207 houses. The number of livestock that died is 793,995. News reports claim that more than half of the causalities are from Sindh and Balochistan. Natural calamities like earthquakes, floods, storms, and volcanoes are such ground realities that cannot be denied or fully resolved but reducing their severity and damages is possible through humanitarian planning and the measures taken by dozens of countries to protect their people from such disasters. The construction of earthquake-proof buildings in Japan, China, the UAE, and Malaysia, and making the rivers flowing in the middle of cities a place of entertainment and benefit for the people instead of problems. It is only due to the planning and sincerity of the leadership of these countries. Otherwise, the flood water of the river does not distinguish between black and white, nor between Muslims and non-Muslims.
Political division in Pakistan is increasing at an unprecedented rate, an economic crisis is imminent, and the people are facing record inflation. What effect will this have on flood control in the country? If history is any indicator, very often political interference is believed to be one of the major factors of poor governance during disasters. The federal government, the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), and the provincial government through close coordination, would ensure transparency and immediate disbursement in the affected areas. The prime minister observed his government has already announced Rs15 billion for Sindh and Rs10 billion for Balochistan.For a country mired in political turmoil and economic setbacks, coordinating the flood response in the short and long term will undoubtedly be a challenge. The structural inequalities, bad policy-making, and an emphasis on grand-scale infrastructure projects have made much of Pakistan unprepared for the flooding. As per the reports the federal and provincial governments, disaster management authorities, and Pakistan Army are in action to rescue and relieve of the flood-affected people.
UN Secretary-General said that Mr. Guterres said that “the Pakistani people are facing a monsoon on steroids – the relentless impact of epochal levels of rain and flooding”. The Prime Minister said that the latest reports were showing further damages caused by widespread flash floods across the country, adding about 5000 km of roads were damaged. He also appreciated the relevant authorities, provincial governments, NDMA, PDMA, and armed forces for their rescue and relief activities. All authorities concerned had been doing whatever was possible, in a coordinated manner, to alleviate the sufferings of the flood-affected people.
PM SS assured that the money will be distributed in a transparent manner and put to good use, through the help of the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) and Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA). He further said that “I assure you the government, the NDMA, PDMA, and the provincial authorities will be with you day and night until everyone has a roof over their heads”. We will give Rs25,000 compensation to all those affected and Rs1 million to those who have lost a loved one, and for those whose, houses and crops have been destroyed and have lost their cattle, we will give you as many resources as we can.As far as floods and destruction in the lower areas of Punjab and Sindh are concerned, it was not impossible to avoid these losses. In the areas that were devastated by the flood of 2010, if the governments wanted, they could have built strong river embankments through a long-term plan by approving a specific budget every year for the last twelve years. What our scholars and simple-minded Muslims blame their rulers as the punishment of Allah, is called mismanagement of the rulers and related institutions all over the world. We are advised to pray in this way we will be saved from this punishment, but after such situations in the world, those responsible are brought to justice. It is not possible for us to cut down the natural forests causing climate change, and dare to block its path by building houses and hotels in the middle of the rivers. Build weak bridges using poor materials, spend money on poor streets and roads instead of building permanent river embankments, burn tires in brick kilns and factories and make no arrangements to control smoke. We need to keep in mind that these kinds of natural disasters are not the result of individual human sins, they are the result of human tampering with nature and collective mistakes. According to the information received through social media, in most areas, non-victims and undeserving persons have disguised themselves as victims to obtain charity and aid. In some places, camps have been set up by professional people to collect charity, which may not have any verification of spending. It is imperative for government institutions to carry out a joint survey to identify such points.
There is a dire need to formulate a flood control mechanism in Pakistan under an independent body that should be free of political or provincial influence. This body should undertake an emergency survey of areas where water reservoirs and water storage dams can be built, keeping in view the abovementioned considerations. It should consist of experts in related areas who can undertake the responsibilities with determination and foresight.
About Author: Tahama Asad is a graduate of National Defense University, Islamabad.