In 2022, record heavy floods in the country caused an estimated economic loss of more than 30 billion dollars. Over 33 million people were badly affected and more than 1700 died. Infrastructure worth 16.3 billion dollars and assets of 14.9 billion dollars have been completely destroyed by the calamity. A delegation led by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif will participate in an International Conference on Climate Change being held in Geneva on January 9 (tomorrow), with focus on the rehabilitation and reconstruction of the flood victims. In harsh weather conditions the flood victims are facing unbearable hardships. International community needs to move forward to rehabilitate affectees at the earliest.
Soon after the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) coalition government came to power it had to face flood. This flood was three times more dangerous than the flood of 2010, but with the better strategy the government prioritised the railways, electricity, roads and various infrastructures throughout the country within three to four weeks after the flood.
A plan of 14 billion dollars has been made to deal with climate change in future. Unfortunately, during PTI (Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf) government not a single penny was spent on the National Flood Programme. This programme was started by Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) in its previous (2013-2018) tenure.
The government is improving the capability to deal with disasters at the district level. The Department of Meteorology is upgrading the radar system for forecasting through a 60 million dollars allocation.
The Barkhan, Kohlu, Sibbi, Dera Bugti, Musakhail, Loralai and Duki districts of Balochistan are the worst hit by heavy rains and floods.
Record heavy rains and floods have been the worst and submerging roads and bridges. Cotton crop, vegetable and orchards were completely destroyed. In this area, 70 percent of people depend upon livestock. Over four million animals died in floods in Balochistan. A badly damaged National Highway (N-70) remained blocked since August due to landslides. Small dams and farms to markets link roads were partially or completely damaged. Everything fruit and vegetable item went bad. Weeks after, people on their own could partly open the roads blocked by land-sliding.
Highway N-70 is the only connection between main markets of Sindh, Punjab and rest of the country with Balochistan.
In these districts, no road or bridge was intact. To get tents and food items for their family members thousands of flood victims are seen standing in front of DC offices in Balochistan.
Because of non-availability of electricity, life here has become miserable. Doctors, snake-bite anti-venom and other medicines are not available in hospitals.
Seventy percent of the houses destroyed across Pakistan in recent floods were in Balochistan.
Poor infrastructure and extreme poverty increased vulnerability. When heavy rains and flooding inundated thousands of houses across Balochistan the people had no option but to evacuate their homes before they were swept away in flood. Countless villages, houses, shops, the mosques, Madaris and villages were completely destroyed and submerged under muddied water.
Many somehow managed to evacuate but have nothing now. Not even a roof over their heads. Millions of people across the country have suffered on account of heavy rains and floods.
Balochistan, the country’s poorest province with minimum infrastructure where majority of the people in villages and towns live in mud houses, have been the worst affected.
Around 2800 school buildings collapsed due to floods, 1280 in Balochistan alone. Thousands of people have lost their lives in the floods across the country. Thirty percent casualties were in Balochistan alone.
Thousands of acres of cash crops and vegetation ready for harvest were destroyed. As floods were ravaging Balochistan, the province was hit by an earthquake – another natural disaster. Although earthquake caused no casualties, it partially or completely destroyed thousands of houses.
Because of floods, hundreds of villages across Balochistan were cut off and are still not accessible. Among several others, two important road links that the rains adversely affected were the main RCD (Regional Cooperation for Development) Highway that links Pakistan’s commercial capital of Karachi with Balochistan’s capital Quetta, and the Makran Coastal Highway, which links southern Balochistan, especially the Gwadar Port, with Karachi and rest of the country.
Amid the ongoing climate crisis, the frequency of floods will increase. The devastation resulting from such hazards will be magnified by poor infrastructure, unprotected housing and a missing disaster management system.
It is possible to reduce the risk and damage. Early warning systems can help reduce the damage. Pakistan has institutional structures of National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) at the federal level and the Provincial Disaster Management Authorities (PDMAs) at the provincial level but disaster preparedness has never been a priority.
Pakistan’s National Climate Change Policy speaks about the need for putting in place early warning systems. It also underscores the need for evacuation plans and strategies, ensuring reconstruction of rural housing to reduce risks of floods, construction of disaster-resilient hospitals, dispensaries and schools that can be used as designated safe shelters.
But none of these plans was ever implemented. In fact, school buildings were one of the first to be washed away by gushing floodwaters.
Weather forecasts predict heavy rains that could cause floods. It is the responsibility of national and provincial institutions to get prepared for possible risks.
People living in these villages could not leave their mud houses when they were hit by torrential rains and floods. Efficient coordination and planning will be helpful in minimising risks and losses. The federal government is working harder to rehabilitate the flood victims on emergency basis, yet a lot more needs to be done.Naveed Aman Khan, "Floods 2022," Business recorder. 2023-01-08.
Keywords: Environmental sciences , Economic loss , Climate change , Weather conditions , Floods , Balochistan , NDMA , RCD