The much-anticipated pre-monsoon is making its presence felt across large parts of Pakistan. Torrential rains and flash floods are playing havoc with life and property in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and Balochistan. Most of the damage was caused by incidents of roof collapse. Due to flash floods caused by heavy rains, roads including those linking different districts in Balochistan have been swept away. Several bridges and scores of houses have been destroyed. This year, like every year, sufficient measures were not taken to prevent infrastructural damage in the relatively underdeveloped villages and small towns most heavily affected by floods. The infrastructure of the areas that are susceptible to flooding, like those along the rivers, should be reinforced and made resistant to heavy rainfall and inundation. Otherwise, the exorbitant costs of rebuilding and renovating the damaged roads, bridges and buildings will keep adding up and we will remain caught up in an endless cycle of rebuilding towns and villages, only to have them demolished and inundated every year. As usual, in the face of unforeseen weather patterns, the lack of preparation for the floods has left victims to survive on their own. The fact is that each year we are forced to rely on last minute, emergency relief operations and this is a failure of the state, particularly the Provincial and National Disaster Management Authorities (PDMA and NDMA). Because floods in the wake of changed weather patterns have become a permanent annual issue in Pakistan, and are only threatening to get worse due to global warming and the subsequent melting of the glaciers in the peaks of the north, long term measures need to be taken to enable the irrigation system of Pakistan to handle the increased water flow.
The bunds and dykes need to be strengthened, more reservoirs and dams need to be built and the capacity of the existing dams, which is greatly diminished due to siltation, needs to be bolstered. Nobody can stop flash floods from playing havoc but there is a need to scale down losses. We need to take precautionary measures such as discouraging deforestation, removal of encroachments on river beds and building of houses that can sustain changing weather and its aftermath in susceptible areas. The annual flood crisis that Pakistan faces is indicative of a systemic problem of the water resource and disaster management departments. It is foolhardy of the state to not prepare for the floods before they hit and then scramble to rebuild and evacuate the affected areas after significant destruction has already been caused. The disaster management authorities do not have sufficient personnel and equipment on hand in times of crisis, forcing them to rely on voluntary rescue workers and the military to help evacuate people and mitigate the damages of the floods. All our prime minister seems to be able to do during a natural disaster is express sympathies after the crisis has already hit. There is a need of taking precautionary measures to ward off these threats with better preparation.