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Preventing floods due to large rain events

The engineers are at it again. They want the engineering works to start on Kalabagh Dam [KPK] and Bhasha dam [BD]. Why? They understand that stored water is probably the easiest way to try and reduce water shortage. I have been involved in this exercise for a long time. What do these two dams cost?, a lot I am told. Whatever may the cost, please see the track record of all these guys that are suggesting these dams as means of meeting the water requirements of the agriculture sector. They have played on fear and its consequences on food security for a long-time.

In another article, I have reduced the working of Mirani dam and the Khanpur dam and how engineers are unable to meet their obligations. In all cost/Benefit analysis that I have seen they have underplayed the costs and over played the benefits. I urge them to look into all the projects in this sector. This aside, can any government agency tell me what is the impact of rain-run-off water and how much of the flood can be attributed to this run-off and the three eastern rivers and how we can blame India when we get water in excess from there.

Have we worked out the water absorptive capacity of the soil? If suppose we were to say that the soil absorbs water at the rate of one inch per hour and three inch rain falls in one hour, two inches of rain does not have any other recourse but to flow on the soil surface and if there is no vegetation then the flow will be that much more as there will be no hindrance in the soil (ground cover etc).

There are options that Pakistan must exercise as an alternate to the engineers fetish about dams. Pocket ponds can be developed when the flow of water is changed through what is called swales designed to accept water and the evenness of the moisture content in the entire soil structure is made possible by this intervention. It is cheap, it enables the mined sub-soil water to regenerate the underground water and it causes minimal damage. Besides the regeneration of underground water these ponds actually can be used for supplemental irrigation when water is scarce.

With swale and berms pattern established on the farm, an entirely new pattern of water flow will be developed. The rectilinear paddock, will have to go. Viewed from the air the pattern looks as if it is reverse herring bone pattern. The water flow is managed through a simple sub-soiler to which at one end is attached a contraption that looks like a mini-jet fighter. This throws up a lot of mud and is helpful in containing water. So what the farmer needs is a sub-soiler and this is done on an annual basis. The porosity of the soil is increased and it takes in all the excessive water. Then what happens is that the floods become a source of improving top soil and the aerobic converts the sub soil to top soil. These organisms are plentiful in the aerobic soil conditions.

The technology known as key line cultivation gears up the natural process of living soil formation. This idea supports the earlier one where I had suggested that water cannot be confronted it must be received just as one receives a guest. The damage that has been done in the last two years will be repeated again and my guess is that this will last for the next five years. Pakistan can ill-afford to send its small farmers back to the poverty line. What are the implications of this for the rain fed areas of Pakistan? Much. Who will do it? None for in Pakistan cynics abound. Go to any ministry and you will find that the game is lost before it is played. The graveyard mentality is overbearing in Pakistan. It has nothing to do with the political system but the core values of the bureaucracy that seemed to have been dead and buried. The looks of the ministries is like a graveyard.

What are we to do? Radical transformation requires men of vision and men of courage and conviction. These are not available because of the way we are organised. Every individual is honest bar the next one. You can see it for yourself. Each one has a clean conscience but the one next is the one with aberrations. I am clean and the dirt comes form the next one.

Growing one’s own food is a powerful and a therapeutic way of living. It can be done any where. It can be done in grow bags in the sitting room. Five tomato plants will supply your family requirement through out the growing season. With development that is actually non-development the nature of work of the ordinary citizens has changed. As students every corner of the land was utilised for something productive. The nature of effort is such that the work ethics of the family was sustained. This was where the laboratory of life started. The transformation of the people starts with the many kinds of interactions that are encouraged. This is so powerful a way of life that it starts one step at a time and makes the work ethics that goes with it. Why is this suggested? It is suggested as agriculture and water go together. Any one that is sensitive to water is sensitive to agriculture and vice versa.

Now try and mesh the key line technology with agriculture productivity. Then instead of flood damage one would have a flood production system and in any case that would convert a damage situation to a production system. It will also change the taste of the palette. At the moment what is happening as a result of urbanisation is a complete reverse. Floods can be managed systematically and without any recourse to expensive investment. Peri-urban’s sister intervention is peri-rural and the two can go together thus making life more worthwhile. The effort so far is not only to reduce the element of floods but also to reduce dissonance in human affairs.

Let me recapitulate that key line management of water maybe the answer for managing floods. Given Pakistan’s inability to handle difficult conceptual situation this will not be easily digestible. Pakistan’s moronic interventions can hardly be complimented. It has and it continues to allow situations to become complex and then throw up their hands in despair as if nothing else is possible. The temper of a nation is determined by its ability to handle difficult and near impossible aspects of nation hood. The crunch is that if we do not manage floods the poor will suffer and this sufferance will be based on the inability of the elites and would be direct consequences of the policies laid down by the rich and the articulate but incompetent. Do something while you can. The flood interventions will not be possible in one year and will take a long time. Life of every citizen deserves what one desires for oneself.

Dr Zafar Altaf, "Preventing floods due to large rain events," Business recorder. 2013-09-07.
Keywords: Social science , Social issues , Social needs , Social rights , Social problems , Kalabagh Dam , Bhasha dam , Mirani dam , Political system , Agriculture , Dams , Pakistan