Floods Disasters, Causes and Remedies : Professor Abdul Shakur Shah

Floods are a serious problem in Pakistan and their continuation has become more dangerous for economic development. There are more than 60 small and big rivers in Pakistan. After the creation of Pakistan in 1947, it was necessary to develop a new forecasting and warning system to avoid the long history of floods and its continuation, but no concrete steps were taken until the catastrophic floods.

In 1976, the Flood Forecasting System (FFS) was established. Severe floods in 1990 exposed the weaknesses of the warning and monitoring system. Two major floods in 1992 and 1998 occurred in the months of August and March respectively. The flood of 1992 was a dangerous flood that engulfed the entire country except Balochistan. In the decade of 2000-2009, floods of varying severity occurred almost every year except in 2002 and 2004, and in 2005 there were two floods in the months of February and June.

In 2007, about 130 people lost their lives in floods. In 2010, one-fifth of the country’s total area was affected by floods. The number of people affected in this disaster was greater than those affected by the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, the 2005 Kashmir earthquake and the 2010 Haiti earthquake. It was the second deadliest flood in history. The flood took 1,985 lives, inundated 17,553 villages, affected an area of over 160,000 square kilometers and affected about 21 million people.

The 2011 floods killed 434 people, displaced approximately 5.3 million people, and affected at least 1,524,773 homes. At least 571 people lost their lives and property in 2012. In 2013, 287 people were killed in the floods and the country’s economy suffered huge losses. In 2014, 367 people died, over 2.5 million people were affected and 129,880 houses were damaged. More than 1 million acres of agricultural land and 250,000 farmers were also affected. The devastation of floods in Pakistan can be estimated from the World Disaster Report 2003 Geneva, which states that 6037 people lost their lives and 8,989,631 were affected during 1993 to 2002.

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According to an analytical study of global disasters over the past ten years, floods are the third most common natural disaster after earthquakes and tsunamis. According to a report by the Center for Research on Epidemiology, studies of disaster history suggest Pakistan is one of the country’s most affected by natural disasters in the world. Five types of floods commonly occur in Pakistan: flash flood, river flood, urban flood, coastal flood and pluvial flood. In the history of Pakistan, there are different types of floods almost every year. However, most floods occur in Pakistan due to heavy monsoon rains. Floods are caused by breaching of embankments and banks of watercourses.

The situation has worsened due to the recent flash floods. The death toll caused by recent floods and landslides due to heavy rains has exceeded 1000 across the country. Displacement and loss are intensifying. The government has officially declared 66 districts as ‘disaster-affected’. There are 31 districts in Balochistan, 23 in Sindh, 9 in KP and 3 in Punjab. The situation remains critical and many other districts are expected to be affected. According to NDMA, around 33 million people have been affected by the recent flood disasters. As of August 25, Pakistan has received 375.4 mm of rain, which is 2.87 times more than the 30-year national average of 130.8 mm.

These rains occurred mainly in parts of Balochistan, Sindh and Punjab. Balochistan is receiving five times the 30-year average and Sindh 5.7 times more than the 30-year average. According to the NDMA, more than 218,000 houses have been destroyed and another 452,000 have been damaged since June 14. Businesses have been destroyed and people have been forced to fill their pockets and hide their heads. Even a dry place is not available to bury the deceased. More than 793,900 cattle, which were an important source of sustenance and livelihood for many families, were swept away by the floods. 63 percent of cattle have died in Balochistan and 25 percent in Punjab due to floods. About 2 million acres of crops and orchards have also been affected, including at least 304,000 acres in Balochistan, 178,000 acres in Punjab and about 1.54 million acres in Sindh. Damage to infrastructure has made the situation worse. The partial or complete destruction of more than 3,000 kilometers of roads and 145 bridges has disrupted the ability of people to flee to safer areas or travel to access markets, health care or other essential services.

Providing aid to the victims has become very difficult. Internet outages and destruction of other means of communication have added to the difficulties. According to provisional figures from the provincial education department, at least 17,566 schools were affected: 15,842 in Sindh, 544 in Balochistan and 1,180 in Punjab. About 5,492 schools were used to shelter displaced people. A Rapid Needs Assessment (RNA) conducted in 10 districts of Balochistan found that 977 classrooms were completely destroyed (304 in Khuzdar, 193 in Lasbela and 167 in Jhal Magsi) while 975 classrooms (304 in Khuzdar, 156 ) suffered minor damage. 174 in Lasbela and Jhal Magsi), and 577 schools are being used as shelters. (254 in Kala Saifullah, 105 in Jhal Magsi and 84 in Lasbela) Schools have been converted into shelter homes. Near-constant rain is rapidly filling the dam’s reservoirs, increasing flooding and rain-induced landslides, further posing a threat to the people nearby.

Tarbela Dam has already reached its maximum protection level of 1,550 feet (472 m), while Chashma Barrage is only in Punjab province. Seven feet (2.13 m) remain before it reaches the maximum protection level of 649 feet (197 m). Precautionary measures are better than corrective measures. The National disaster Management Authority (NDM) was established. This authority is unable to perform effectively due to lack of expertise and technical knowledge regarding flood control. It is the need of the hour to enhance the capacity of this authority by employing new technology as well as hiring skilled and technically strong manpower. Military helicopters and the army should be involved in emergency situations so that the disaster management institution is not allowed to flourish by putting all the work on the army.

NDMA believes that their responsibility is only to control disasters, but this concept is completely wrong because any National Disaster Management Authority can regulate, coordinate, train manpower and update systems to prevent disasters. It is also responsible for developing technology. Disaster management is a multi-faceted field and requires scientific knowledge to do the job properly. Although the army has played an effective and efficient role in all the countrywide disasters, on the other hand, it shows shortcomings in the NDMA, which is responsible for technical cooperation with other administrative agencies to control and prevent flood disasters to provide support and coordination.

NDMA has failed to develop a system through which this authority can deal with disasters at the national level. Training of emergency response personnel is an important factor in reducing disaster losses. As floods are frequent calamities in Pakistan, it is more important to take extraordinary measures on an emergency basis to avoid its recurrence and reduce its impact. Natural hazards cannot be completely controlled but their risks can be reduced with proper planning and measures. Concerted and sustained action is the need of the hour to reduce public vulnerability to flood disasters. After the devastating floods of 2010, the NDMA was divided into smaller units at the provincial and district levels called Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA), District Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) to deal with disasters especially floods. It can be made more efficient by investments in disaster risk reduction in Pakistan for flood forecasting after the devastating floods in 2010 improved forecasting and warning systems and this greatly helped in the 2014 floods. Forecasts at various sites and the actual discharge were almost the same. So by using the latest technology and models we can avoid floods and also reduce their terrible effects. Other flood management works in Pakistan.

Organizations include the Department of Health (DoH), the Pakistan Red Crescent Society (PRCS), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). Post-flood rehabilitation is an important step to resettle the affected people in a way that avoids flood damage in the coming years. Building houses on a hasty basis using far from flexible materials is time consuming. Along with disaster science and engineering, it has become very important to construct houses with a low-cost alternative method to meet the shelter needs and household items of flood-affected people. Flood awareness, preparedness, and planning, creating awareness in the community about the schedule, response and improvement measures. Basic necessities such as food, fodder for livestock, emergency medicine, equipment for temporary shelter etc. should be in stock for emergency relief operations. For an early and effective flood warning system we must install new systems to forecast and communicate with people. Pakistan is the 6th most populous country in the world and is a driver of land pressure that results in most environmental disasters and environmental changes.

If the proposed restoration activities in Pakistan are to be successful, population control must be taken seriously and it should be controlled as a major intervention. Alternative accommodation should be provided for people living in floodplains. Maps of floodplains should also be provided across the country so that people can evacuate themselves from these areas through legal measures or alert programs. A forestation campaign should be intensified as deforestation is an important source of biodiversity. Controlling the adverse effects of climate change through afforestation helps protect their livelihoods and reduce flood damage. Rapid and unplanned construction of settlements, buildings, roads and other infrastructure increases the vulnerability of land.

Therefore, as land roughness increases relative to natural landforms, runoff increases as rainfall infiltration decreases and eventually leads to higher water levels in rivers and other streams. In congested urban areas about half of the area’s rainfall goes directly as surface runoff, so this increase in runoff requires additional infrastructure to mitigate flooding. It has been observed that the frequency and severity of floods, erosion of waterways, and destruction of aquatic habitats are usually caused by unplanned construction. Industrialization is another major cause of climate change that disrupts the water cycle, leading to a large number of disasters in recent years. Unplanned settlement and industrialization is a major concern and it is the responsibility of the concerned authorities to plan, monitor and control the settlement as per standards to minimize the impact of floods on the economic development of the country.

Parks, gardens and roof gardens help absorb rainwater and prevent flooding. Embankments should be planned and constructed to help divert water to open land in case of heavy rains. Floodplains should be created along rivers and streams to allow them to overflow without harm. Develop proper urban drainage systems and ensure that drains are cleaned and blocked so that water does not enter settlements or fields. Appropriate rainwater management practices should be adopted. More dams should be constructed to store rainwater and put it to positive use instead of causing floods. There is dire need to improve flood warning and disaster management mechanisms. We should conduct public awareness campaigns on how to deal with such situations. Strictly prevent illegal encroachments to reduce losses. A flood zone should be designated near rivers and drains and all types of construction should be banned in this zone.

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