Floods in Pakistan 2015
WITH five consecutive years of flooding since 2010 one would have thought that by now some basic lessons would have been learned.
But going by the experience of Chitral and Alipur and parts of Layyah in the past few days, it seems that no effort has been made to increase preparedness.
Flash floods have devastated most of Chitral, and large parts of Alipur were submerged with locals having little to no warning about the impending disaster.
Technologies exist that can provide up to three hours of warning of an impending flash flood for mountainous regions, and have been deployed in places such as Bangladesh.
Likewise, alerting local populations in the plains of a breach in the embankment and the imminent arrival of floodwaters is possible using SMS technologies. But nothing of the sort happened.
The most important aspects of flood preparedness, it seems, have not been addressed despite disasters year after year every monsoon season.
Flood preparedness is not so much about building brick-and-mortar infrastructure as it is about putting in place systems to lengthen lead times in weather forecasts, accurately model river flows and generate targeted alerts for affected populations so that they can move to higher ground before the arrival of the floodwaters. But in Chitral, and again in Alipur, no warnings were issued, except in a few isolated cases using mosque loudspeakers, which is a woefully inadequate method in this era of mobile communications.
And despite the passage of more than five years now, a model to accurately forecast river flows is only just getting ready for deployment as the monsoon season brings with it its first large-scale flooding.
Unfortunately, the government insists on repeating the same mistake year after year: getting caught by surprise, then rushing to announce compensation after the floodwaters have already inflicted much damage.
The Met department remains stubbornly wedded to its hopelessly outdated forecasting techniques, and other departments, such as irrigation and revenue and the myriad different disaster management agencies, all become spectators, while the district management struggles to run relief centres and arrange boats. But the key tasks of managing any disaster — forecasting where it will occur — continue to languish.
It is high time we saw streamlined systems put in place to increase our capacity to manage floods. It is also about time the conversation about flood management moved beyond outdated notions of building more dams.
Without a proper signalling system and lead times, there is little point in issuing fresh instructions to the district management each year to remain alert.
Developing proper signalling is clearly the domain of the provincial administrations, whereas getting superior forecasts with longer lead times is the job of the federal government. But our experience thus far shows there is little we can do this year other than pray for kinder weather.
As flash floods triggered by torrential rain inundated large swathes in the country — particularly in Chitral district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa where roads, bridges and water schemes were washed away — the Met Office forecast on Monday that the water level in the Indus, already in medium to high flood, would rise further at Kalabagh and Taunsa in a couple of days.
Even though the floods did not cause large-scale losses of life, one man and his five children drowned on Eid day (Saturday) when the man tried to drive through a fast-flowing channel in Azad Jammu and Kashmir.
The central parts of Chitral district have been cut off from Mastuj sub-division and Garam Chashma valley because the connecting roads have been swept away by floodwaters at Kuragh and Shahsha.
According to sources in the district administration, roads leading to more than 20 of the 36 valleys have been closed, including those in Sheshi Koh, Bumburate, Birir, Rumbur, Garam Chashma, Karimabad, Gobor, Yarkhoon, Laspure, Oveer, Melp, Rech and Khot.
Ten suspension bridges have been washed away, including two each in Broze and Rech villages and one each in Kuragh, Kosht, Booni Gol, Awi Gol, Baroghil road and Osiak Drosh.
About 80 per cent of the water supply schemes have been adversely affected. As a result, residents have been forced to use contaminated water.
In the severely-hit Bumburate valley, three small hydroelectric projects have been washed away. And almost all the main power houses in the district including Reshun (4MW), Chitral city (1MW) and Ayun have been inundated and their transmission lines badly affected.
With many power pylons toppling over, the entire district has been without electricity for the last six days.
With roads unlikely to be restored within the next three to four days, a shortage of food is looming over remote valleys and other areas, according to sources.
In a statement, the Provincial Disaster Management Authority instructed the deputy commissioner of Chitral to declare emergency in the district and asked him to call on duty personnel of the communication and works and other line departments.
The statement said the available machinery and manpower had been deployed for helping reopen traffic by the C&W department. The army’s engineering corps had been requested to provide heavy machinery for the rehabilitation and restoration of the damaged roads in Bumburate and Mastuj, the statement added.
A statement by the Inter-Services Public Relations said that more than 50 people had been rescued during relief work carried out in Garam Chashma, Shoghore, Mastuj, Kuragh, Orghoch and Bumburate.
Chief Minister Pervez Khattak, meanwhile, issued instructions that immediate steps be taken for restoration of damaged roads, bridges and water supply schemes in Chitral district.
Mr Khattak also ordered disbursement of Rs1 million to the district administration for providing essential food items to the affected people.
An official of the Met Office in Lahore told Dawn that Indus was in medium to high flood on Monday.
“At present, there is medium to high flood in the river, as the current flow is 423,000 cusecs at Kalabagh and 380,000 cusecs at Taunsa headworks,” Muhammad Akram said.
He added that the water level in the river was likely to rise after water from other rivers entered it at Kot Mithan and because rainfall was likely in the catchment areas.
Though the design and discharge capacities at Taunsa and Kalabagh headworks were 1,000,000 and 950,000 cusecs respectively, the prevailing medium to high flood in the river at the spots was considered to be serious.
He said that Jhelum, Chenab, Sutlej and Ravi were flowing normally. The flow in Jhelum at Rasul headworks was 47,040 cusecs, while in Chenab it was 72,462, 76,148 and 108,000 cusecs at Marala, Khanki and Trimmu.
Ravi was in low flood, he said. Similarly, the Sutlej was below flood level.
Meanwhile, the Layyah district administration has ordered the departments concerned to immediately set up relief camps in various affected villages in view of flooding of the streams due to heavy rains in Koh-i-Suleman area.
BARRAGES IN SINDH
Sindh Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah has been informed that water flow recorded at the Guddu barrage is 353,361 cusecs and at the Sukkur barrage 269,560 cusecs.
Chief Secretary Siddique Memon informed the chief minister that discharge would increase to 345,000 cusecs at Guddu by Tuesday. “(The Indus) would be in low flood… but all necessary measures have been taken to cope with any emergency situation,” he said.
According to police, a man and his five children drowned in a water channel in Bhimber district of Azad Kashmir on Eid day when their car was swept away by strong currents.
Their bodies were retrieved by divers on Sunday morning.
Mohammad Riaz, a taxi driver, was returning to Mirpur city from his Choki Dhadra Parati village through Kasgumma-Samahni link road when they met with the tragic incident in Kallar Nullah.
The deceased had taken his three sons and two daughters, aged between 7 and 21 years, to visit their grandmother.
Eyewitnesses said that Mr Riaz waited for about two hours along the bank of the swollen channel but later decided to drive through it, against the advice of the people present there.
Khalid Hasnain in Lahore and Tariq Naqash in Muzaffarabad contributed to the report
News source: Dawn.com