2022 Floods - Road to Recovery

Loud screams and shouts woke us up in the middle of the night. Everyone was running to escape the flood and find a safe place. Within just a few minutes, half of the shops and hotels along the River Swat were completely submerged in the devastating flood. Millions of dollars’ worth of goods were lost to the flooded river. The region was completely split in two as all the bridges connecting both sides of the region were submerged and washed away. Crossing even a few meters became impossible for the people of a village named Bahrain in the Upper region of District Swat. This was the scene of the devastating flood that hit the region between the night of August 25 and 26, 2022.

The destructive floods of 2022 that occurred nationwide in Pakistan affected over 33 million people, with over 1,700 casualties recorded. Economic damage was estimated to be up to 15 billion USD. Thousands of people across the country found themselves homeless or displaced after the massive floods.

Initially, NGOs and welfare organizations provided the affected victims with basic aid, food, and shelter. Local and international organizations traveled to every corner of the country to provide volunteer services. After the floods receded, Pakistan Army troops launched nationwide rescue operations with helicopters and carried aid to remote areas. The floods caused serious damage to Pakistan, which was already facing an economic crisis. However, the effective and efficient efforts of both the Pakistan Army and welfare NGOs helped manage the situation and temporarily maintain normal life.

It has been nearly two years since the catastrophic floods occurred, yet some issues, especially in the northern regions of Pakistan, remain unresolved and require serious attention from the government. Let’s discuss them one by one.

The economy of northern Pakistan heavily relies on the tourism sector, which is the major economic source for these mountainous regions. The catastrophic floods of 2022 affected the entire tourism industry, as hotels, resorts, and other similar tourist accommodations were heavily damaged or destroyed by the floods. In these areas, most hotels and resorts are built along the beautiful rivers, and each time the rivers flood, these accommodations suffer economic damage, resulting in a decrease in tourism. Thousands of hotels were destroyed or damaged; some have been rebuilt, but many remain in need of reconstruction, making it difficult for visitors to easily explore the beauty of the North. The tourism sector requires serious attention to restore its industry and boost the local economy. 

Tourism is becoming a major global source of economic growth, and Pakistan should also focus on this sector to boost its economy. Infrastructure was another area that was badly damaged by the floods. Roads, highways, bridges, and other transportation means were submerged and temporarily restored by the Pakistan Army and relevant authorities. However, two years later, the temporarily restored infrastructure has not been fully repaired. The condition of highways and roads is affecting travel experiences, while many bridges are not capable of supporting vehicles. Some regions still lack temporary bridges, and chairlifts remain the only means of transportation in these areas, posing significant risks. Multiple casualties have been reported from the use of chairlifts, which both children and elders use to cross rivers. I have personally witnessed three chairlifts installed over the Swat River on my daily commute to college. The northern regions are urgently appealing for the reinstatement of bridges and the restoration of roads and highways.

Local businesses were heavily affected by these floods, causing serious damage to both the local and national economy. Thousands of small businesses, shops, and other sources of income were destroyed. Some have managed to reestablish their sources of income, while others are still looking to the government for economic assistance to support their families. Initially, welfare organizations provided them with enough financial aid to sustain their families for a few weeks, but once the assistance ended, poverty and unemployment increased in these regions. 

UBAID SAHIL,

Swat.

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