Flood Disaster | Editorial
One of the biggest and most deliberate mistakes made by successive governments in Pakistan is in referring to flooding as a natural disaster. It is true that the annual monsoon rains are a natural phenomenon but the flooding they cause – even the devastating monsoon season we have seen this year – is to some extent preventable. Parts of Balochistan, the Seraiki Wasaib, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Azad Kashmir are presenting a picture of complete state apathy and neglect – with images coming in of inundated villages as people try to save their lives and belongings from the unforgiving water. On July 28, another 13 people died and hundreds of houses flooded or were swept away in rain-related incidents in parts of Balochistan. As heavy downpour unleashed floods in Lasbela, Qila Saifullah, and other districts of the province, as well as in the Seraiki belt, people are facing delayed evacuations and heartwrenching choices as they wait for rescue and relief.
While Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has constituted a committee to assess the damage wrought by monsoon rains across the country, the particularly dangerous plight of those in areas that are dangerously flooded right now, many of these rural and hence away from the daily notice of the media, need immediate attention. According to reports, dozens of villages in the Uthal tehsil of Lasbela district stand submerged. Just in one day, seven people including three women in the Kanraj area of Bela and four others in Uthal either drowned or were swept away by torrents. The most badly affected areas are already underdeveloped. In this precarious condition, there is hardly any protection against gushing waters, even roofs cannot hold the burden of people who try to remain above the water level. As the bridge over the Hub River in Lasbela collapsed, the connection with the rest of the country also got terminated; the same is the case in other areas where large sections of roads have just vanished in torrential sweeps. Local administrations in these areas need more help.
Pakistan Army and the Edhi Foundation have already started relief efforts while the PM has announced a compensation of Rs200,000 to Rs500,000 to affected persons but it is important that the restoration of the damaged infrastructure take priority. So far more than a 100 people have died in Balochistan alone. In the past two months or so, rains have played havoc in many parts of the country but Balochistan is perhaps the most affected due to its dismal infrastructure and rampant poverty. According to official data, the floods have destroyed over 6,000 homes completely while over 10,000 houses have been partially damaged. The real number may be even more. Moreover, 16 dams have sustained major or minor damages during the rains. The destruction of crops and gardens is in addition. Nearly 2,500 solar panels have also been severely damaged and over 600km of roads have sustained damage. What we need far more than stately saviours is a plan for dealing with the flooding that invariably will hit us with more intensity, given our climate change challenges. Relief activities are certainly needed but the government should be spending the months before the floods hit, doing everything possible to minimize the damage.
Flood Disaster | Editorial