Managing Floods

Pakistan received 181 percent above average rainfall during the monsoon season this year, breaking the record of 62 years. With Balochistan experiencing 450 percent more rainfall than usual, it seems to be the most affected province. About 170 people have died, hundreds more are waiting to be rescued and thousands have been displaced as a result. According to these statistics, this year is particularly devastating but the whole phenomenon is not an unusual occurrence. Reports of this nature flood news outlets every year and still, here we stand.
According to the government’s estimates, 54 children, 42 women and 67 men have been killed since June. Furthermore, 15,377 houses have collapsed, 10,000 embankments have been destroyed, countless dams damaged and bridges connecting different areas have fallen. Many individuals are currently stranded, with little hope to survive as consistent rains are expected until August 10. There are also long-term consequences to keep in mind with over 0.2 million acres of agricultural land under water, yields are expected to run dry for the foreseeable future.
PM Shehbaz Sharif visited some of the heavily impacted areas of Balochistan and distributed over Rs.1 million to the families of victims, alongside other disbursements for those affected. He further announced that round-the-clock rescue, relief and rehabilitation measures will be taken and multiple organisations have taken positive steps to support this initiative. The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) for instance is providing free services in calamity-hit areas and allies like China have also offered humanitarian aid in the form of food packs, solar panels for electricity and living equipment. These are excellent steps to be taken but for once, we must recognise that it would be much better if we were acting preemptively rather than reactively. Visiting the scene after tragedy has struck and promising to offer help simply does not compare to taking proactive measures before such disasters.
If we have seen the same series of events take place in provinces like Balochistan and cities like Karachi every single year for decades, why has the government not set up mechanisms to avoid this fate. Research and development are key because Pakistan needs innovative solutions to flood management. Redirecting flood water, protecting agricultural lands, safeguarding villages and using the excess water productively are all needs that must be catered to. We cannot live in the two extremes of droughts or floods, some middle ground must be achieved and for that, we need long-term policies that at least focus on disaster management if not prevention.

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