The government of Pakistan has declared a national emergency as millions of people have been affected by floods in the country. The national disaster management authority has reported that more than 900 people had been killed since June.
Moreover, the overflowing rivers wreak havoc across the country as it has already suffered a heavy loss of $5.5 billion. In Sindh and Punjab provinces, sugarcane and cotton crops have been destroyed completely and the loss of cotton crops alone has been estimated at $2.6 billion. Likewise, Pakistan’s textile and sugar exports are estimated to drop by $1 billion. Almost 2 million tonnes of wheat stored at government warehouses in Sindh have been washed away, and over 800,000 livestock have also been lost to rains and floods this season.
It’s not the first time Pakistan has come across floods and heavy monsoon rains, rather it has always been vulnerable to such climate catastrophes. The country has seen disastrous floods in 1993, 1996, and 2010 and a massive earthquake in 2005. Similarly, the country had also suffered heavily in terms of livestock, agriculture, human resource, and infrastructure but has never taken any preemptive measures to cope with these natural disasters.
Climate change and natural disaster management is a serious concern in Pakistan, it’s high time the federal and provincial governments, the establishment, humanitarian organizations, the mainstream media, and civil society at large should take the responsibility to highlight the issue. They should also propose effective strategies to manage natural disasters more systematically.
Unfortunately, we as a reactive nation only take immediate steps when we are hit by a natural disaster. We never learn from our past, as for the past 50-55 years we have been facing floods and earthquakes, but the authorities never came across any effective strategy or mechanisms to deal with natural disasters beforehand.
What is Pakistan doing to protect itself from floods?
Despite being 75 years old, we act immaturely as we either blame India or the environment for the floods in Pakistan to cover our negligence and mismanagement at the time of natural disasters. Although India being an upper riparian country does open its flood gates after feeling the monsoon pressure, this is not the only reason for floods in Pakistan.
Furthermore, uncertainty prevails on what Pakistani authorities have done up till now, to cope with floods which we expect every year during the monsoon season. The 2010 mega-flood inundated one-fifth of the country, killed almost 600 people, and caused over US $10 billion in damages.
#Pakistan 33 million people have been hit by the floods😢
In #Sindh every bit of land was flooded, over 2million acres of crops destroyed, 214 bridges collapsed, 40 small dams damaged, 1/2m houses damaged, 200,000 houses destroyed, million livestock gone @BBCNews #HelpPakistan pic.twitter.com/60VGgynRnK
— Senator Sehar Kamran T.I. (@SeharKamran) August 28, 2022
The government’s weak water management policies and poor flood control systems are yet again one of the main reasons for floods this year.
Northern areas of Pakistan have been severely hit by the floods, as the provincial governments are not held accountable for the poor infrastructure in flood-prone areas for the past 50 years. The low-quality buildings took thousands of lives in Swat and Narran when they were washed away in the 2010 floods due to weak foundations.
Unfortunately, multi-story buildings were rebuilt on the same foundations which once again collapsed this year. Therefore, the government should formulate rules and regulations for construction in flood-prone areas and emphasize the structuring of disaster-resistant buildings.
In addition to the north, southern parts of Pakistan like Sindh and Balochistan have also experienced heavy damage due to mismanagement and poor infrastructure. Despite being the largest province, Balochistan is the least developed among other provinces. The unequal distribution of resources has increased the deprivation among the people.
Lack of infrastructure, poor drainage facilities, absence of flood control mechanisms, and political instability are the major reasons for the destruction caused by heavy monsoon rains in the province. The government should draw an effective plan to cater to this damage and minimize its effects in the future.
Water resource management
Pakistan and India have taken drastically different approaches to managing their resources. Pakistan has only 164 dams to cater to the floods, while India has almost 4-5,000 small and large dams and China has nearly 80,000 dams which it uses for multiple purposes.
Similarly, Pakistan lacks water storage facilities except for a few reservoirs like Tarbela and Mangla dams which were built in the 1960s and 70s. This adds to the water scarcity in southern parts of the country as flood water is wasted almost every year and by the time monsoon season ends water table decreases further. However, little or no progress is seen in Diamer Bhasha Dam after the Supreme Court started investigating the funds collected for the dam.
Meanwhile, India has built hundreds of dams, reservoirs, and barrages to provide water to its desert areas over the past four decades. As a result, India has the capacity to store enough water for 100-120 days, while Pakistan can only store it for 25 days.
In addition to this, Pakistan urgently needs to build more water storage in order to reduce the impact of flooding and save water for the drought season. Effective urban planning is also important to cater to the water crisis and threats of urban flooding during the monsoon season.
Small dams of around five feet can be constructed in Margalla hills which can store rainwater as it would help in increasing the water table. The initiative would also help the capital to cater to its growing water needs as almost 50,000 housing units in major sectors like F, G, H, and I do not receive any water from the capital development Authority (CDA).
Read more: Pakistan needs hundreds of Dadhocha dams
Conclusively, Pakistan is one of the most vulnerable countries in the world to climate change. The authorities need to realize that’s high time we work on a preventive strategy for climate change and flood control, as we cannot afford to lose thousands of people and billions of dollars every year.