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Wednesday, October 5, 2022
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HomeOpinionCan the behemoth of floods be tamed?

Can the behemoth of floods be tamed?

Pakistan is under the grip of the worst floods at the moment, millions of people are homeless, more than a thousand have died, and countless houses have been levelled besides property and livestock loss of billions of rupees. Despite widespread inundation, government support seems unsystematic.

If the responsible persons are to be determined, there is none because the institutions are created to provide jobs to political and powerful affiliates. They are not supposed to do any constructive work. This is the worst dilemma in the country and no one has any improvement plan.

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Anyway, when this destruction will ultimately be dismissed by terming it a natural calamity, what is the benefit of risking your life by posing questions to the bourgeoisie elite?

The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), PDMA, Departments of Agriculture, Livestock, Food, Board of Revenue and district governments were all responsible for dealing with these calamities.

The tragedy is that the cooperation among these institutions is very poor while deputy commissioners have other many other functions to perform. The government system has been guilty of negligence to such an extent that it doesn’t awaken before the disaster, and then, it is so clever that it blames negligence on others and escapes itself. The story of the 2010 floods is not different.

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When this newspaper did some research on natural disasters and human casualness, it surfaced that failed strategies put all the blame on natural disasters and human negligence covers up the mismanagement. Some also suspected artificial torrential rains in the flood-affected areas.

There is an idea of a sponge city in the world, which Professor Yu Kongjian of Chinese University presented. It is said that he was about to drown in flood water but survived by holding on to tree branches. In 2013, he suggested that cities should use nature instead of building mountains of concrete to prevent flooding. Later, not only in the whole of China, but also in many countries of the world, the idea was not only picked up, but its implementation also started.

Auckland has the highest of seven cities in the world that’s spongy. It rains twice than London. It has converted more than 50 percent of the area into green and blue. Apart from this, there are Nairobi, Singapore, Mumbai, New York, Shanghai and London cities becoming spongy.

There is global warming in the world, and heavy rains and flash floods as predicted much before. Pakistan may be badly affected by them. Pakistan’s population is increasing rapidly, urbanization is on the rise, and people are moving to cities. The result is that the property mafia is building houses by destroying lush green agricultural fields.

Karachi, Lahore, and Faisalabad are the big cities of Pakistan, where the underground water is said to be almost exhausted because water charging is no phenomenon as we have done so much concretization.

It is said that the spongier a city is, the more resilient it will be in the face of those threats.

It seems, said Professor of Geography at Punjab University Dr. Munawar Sabir that we have no plan to deal with such issues as floods, earthquakes, global warming, environmental problems, smog, population growth, traffic problems, and urbanization. He recommended artificial rains on the deserts and flood canals alongside the Indus River to avert floods.

Azizul Hasan, a botanist and agriculturist was of the view that we should realize that trees not only keep the atmosphere cool and provide oxygen but also control floods. He said that this nation never took the billion tree project seriously. Quoting the Economic Survey of Pakistan, water requirement at the canal heads, he said, would be nearly 62.3 MAF with a shortfall of about 27.3 MAF of water in 2025. Famine or floods is the fate of this country.

In big cities, there should be at least one tree for each person’s name inside or outside the house. The Forest Department may make it mandatory. Second, the penalty for cutting trees should be made strict. Rizwan Mehboob, a former civil servant, said that rivers had forests in the catchment areas which were badly encroached. Trees are a rich source of renewable energy and carbon capture and other ecosystem services like reducing risks of erosion and air pollution. Falling of forests triggers a climate crisis and worsens floods.

Japan’s Ambassador Matsuda Kuninori had assured cooperation in protecting the clean drinking water, and ecosystem and controlling floods, but the Pakistani government did not pay any heed to it.

The biggest problems of Pakistan at the moment are three. The first is water storage, the second is energy and the last is climate change. Floods, rising temperatures, growing population, diseases and ignorance are also issues, but the solution to all of these is linked to the first three.

But the blind state machinery has neither the vision nor the sense of responsibility to do its job to ensure the safety of people’s lives and property.

Usman Buzdar, who was the chief minister of Punjab for three years, only focused on his constituency, and extensively built roads, and streets, but he did not do anything to control floods. Neither did the waterways get cleaned during his tenure nor dykes were strengthened. It seems that all his development schemes have been washed away by floods to cover up maladministration and looting.

Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal has accused the PTI government of not spending 170 billion rupees that were earmarked for flood protection. A spokesperson of PTI said that there was an epidemic like Corona during their time and a huge amount of money was spent on the pandemic. He said that the PDM government has badly destroyed the economy to get one billion dollars from the IMF.

This was a flood of flawed governance, scams, and rule by mafias, maladministration, incompetence and arrogance of the ruling elite. Maladministration has marginalized the downtrodden masses altogether. After the coronavirus pandemic, people are grappling with rising inflation, diseases, and unemployment. And the burden of all incompetence and maladministration will fall on the poor people.

Reportedly, preliminary assessments of the flood-related losses may exceed 11 billion dollars. This loss is way more than the 2010 floods devastation. This time, the loss to cash crop (cotton) is about 6 million bails against a target of 11 million.

According to NDMA data, 33 million people have been affected in 80 districts of the country. When we compare the 2022 flood with 2010, we see that the river flows were very high then while they are low now.

The water pundits say that the downstream Kotri water flow since April this year was 17 MAF as compared to the total storage of 9.5 MAF. When south Punjab is under flood, the Punjab government has failed to post a permanent irrigation secretary and minister. CM Ch Parvez Elahi and CS Kamran Ali Afzal should post full-time officers.

Pakistan should first check how we cope with the changing climate and wake up from the slumber of neglect. There is a need to investigate who was responsible in 2010 and who should be brought to justice today. Without addressing poor disaster management systems, political instability, unregulated urbanization, inappropriate water storage and drainage systems, tree cutting, encroachments in waterways, powerless officers and above all lack of good governance, we may have to face the worst in the years to come.

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