Rehabilitation of Flood Victims

SPEAKER’S COLUMN

In 2022, record heavy floods in the country caused unbearable economic loss of more than 30 billion dollars. Over 33 million people were badly affected and more than 1,700 have died. Infrastructure worth 16.3 billion dollar and assets of 14.9 billion dollar had been completely destroyed.  
A delegation led by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif will participate in an international conference on climate change being held in Geneva on January 9, and 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 earliest possible. 
This flood was three times more dangerous than the flood of 2010, but with a better strategy the government prioritized 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 the future. Unfortunately, during PTI government not a single penny was spent on the National Flood Program. This program was started in PML-N previous era.
The government is improving the capability to deal with disasters at the district level. The Department of Meteorology is upgrading the radar for forecasting with 60 million dollars.
Barkhhan, Kohlu, Sibbi, Dara Bugti, Musakhail, Loralai and Duki districts of Balochistan are the worst hit by heavy rains and devastating floods.
Record heavy rains and floods have been the worst, submerging roads and bridges.
Cotton crop, vegetable and orchards are completely destroyed. In this area, 70 per cent of people depend upon livestock. Over four million animals have died in flood in Balochistan with 1.7 million in Barkhan, Kohlu, Sibbi, Dera Bugti, Musakhail, Lorallai and Duki only. Main National Highway (N-70) has been broken blocked since August due to landslides. Because of the roads condition, thousands of trucks loaded with fruit and vegetable could not reach the market. Farms to markets link roads and small dams have been broken or completely damaged. Everything loaded went rotten. 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, roads and bridges are completely broken. 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 gone miserable. Doctors, snake-bite anti-venom and other medicines are not available in the 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 the flood-water washed it away.
The people in Balochistan have never experienced the kind of rains and vulnerability they saw recently.
Countless villages, houses, shops, 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.
More than seven million houses were destroyed across Pakistan, seventy percent of which were in Balochistan.
Around 2,800 school buildings collapsed due to the floods, 1,280 in Balochistan alone. Thousands of people have lost their lives in the floods across the country.
Thirty percent casualties are in Balochistan alone, which is the largest number in any province.
Thousands of acres of cash crops and vegetation ready for harvest are destroyed. As flood was ravaging Balochistan, the province was hit by earthquake – another natural disaster.
Although earthquake caused no casualties but several thousand houses were partially and completely destroyed.
Because of flood, hundreds of the villages across Balochistan have been cut off and are still not accessible as roads and bridges are washed away like anything.
Among several others, two important road links that the rains destroyed 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 system can 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 levels but disaster preparedness has never been a priority.
Pakistan’s National Climate Change Policy mentions the need to put in place early warning systems; evacuation plans and strategies, ensuring reconstruction of rural housing to reduce risks of floods, construction of disaster-resilient hospitals, dispensaries and strong school buildings be used as designated safe shelters.
But none of these plans was ever implemented. In fact, school buildings were one of the first to collapse with the gushing flood-waters.
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 met flood and heavy rains. Efficient coordination and planning will be helpful in minimizing risks and losses. Federal government is struggling hard to rehabilitate flood victims on emergency basis yet a lot more needs to be done.
–The writer is editor, book ambassador, political analyst and author based in Islamabad. He can be reached at naveedamankhan@hotmail.com and tweets @AmanNaveed11

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