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EditorialLessons not learnt in flood-hit Pakistan

Lessons not learnt in flood-hit Pakistan

How many more lives would be required to be sacrificed to awaken the government of its duty of taking pre-emptive measures against the climate change disaster? Every year, torrential rains and floods play havoc with the social fabric in risk prone areas yet no action is seen to avert this recurrent tragedy befalling the poor in Pakistan.

This year too, torrential rains have left a trail of death and destruction in several cities and districts of Sindh and Balochistan while the government is seen caught in the web of half-baked action plans. In the aftermath of these unprecedented rains, 25 people have lost their lives in Sindh so far while the infrastructural loss is unimaginable. Several districts in Baluchistan and Sindh have been badly hit by torrential rains. Urban flooding has also been reported in Karachi, Quetta and Islamabad.

The susceptibility to inundation of the rural areas, small towns and relatively underdeveloped regions along the rivers aside, even the infrastructure of the major cities is ill equipped to handle heavy rains. The meteorological department’s predictions of torrential rainfall seem to fall on deaf ears, as even the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) has been predicting the heavy rainfall that has devastated communities, particularly in rural areas of Baluchistan, without making any preparations to stave off the resulting devastation. The NDMA and other government authorities that can be utilised for this purpose should coordinate with the meteorological department to receive updates of rainfall patterns, so that they can be prepared for the downpour before it begins. The bulk of the evacuation and relief efforts’ responsibility is shifted to the army. The floods happen every year and should be anticipated in advance by the state by now. The bunds and dykes are not sufficiently maintained or buttressed before the monsoons, causing them to break due to the increased flow in the rivers. Even now that the floods have cause widespread destruction, the state authorities have been unable to manage crises as they happen. People have been stranded in flood-affected areas, either because of damaged roads and bridges or because of a lack of rescue efforts in those areas. Families have been swept away in flash floods. People are neither being evacuated nor provided food and other supplies in a timely fashion, causing unnecessary hardships. It is very unfortunate that state representatives only pay attention to the annual monsoon floods when the crisis is already at hand and wreaking its worst. This indifferent and careless attitude of the politicians will certainly cause the people who elected them to lose faith in the governments. At some point, the government will no longer be able to escape accountability for this annual egregious loss of human lives and livelihood due to the carelessness and incompetence of the state authorities and the NDMA, the latter’s sole purpose being to manage such crises.

Amid growing evidence that climate change is having wide-ranging global impacts that will worsen in the years ahead, different countries are planning to tackle the challenge. A persistent change in weather patterns has made flash floods a global issue. In Pakistan, the monsoon is already making its presence felt across large parts of Pakistan. The concerned departments must be prepared to minimise the losses of expected high floods in the country. Awareness must be created among families settled near rivers prone to experience floods. For this purpose every means of communication including radio, TV and even mosques should be utilised to warn people against the possible danger of monsoon rains.

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