More rain havoc

Published July 29, 2016

The rains that just hit Punjab and parts of KP were not as intense as they have been in the past, but the havoc they wreaked was nevertheless severe.

Given the pattern of intensifying monsoons over the past five years, it is becoming imperative that our cities be built with adequate drainage, and that nullahs are in proper condition prior to the commencement of the monsoon season.

However, this is clearly not the case, as the residents of Lahore, Sialkot, Abbottabad and Rawalpindi, amongst many other cities, know.

Even the slightest rainfall is enough to clog our cities and cause nullahs to overflow, and the heavy rains that we saw on Tuesday and Wednesday only made things worse.

In Lahore, what aggravated matters was the construction under way for the Orange Line train, where the dugout route has turned hazardous. In some cities, such as Gujrat, the quantity of rainfall set a record, but in most precipitation was not at record levels.

What will it take for the authorities to realise that preparing for the monsoon season is an important priority? The obsession with high-visibility projects is coming at the cost of many other civic responsibilities that the federal and provincial governments owe to their citizens.

The drainage of rainwater is not rocket science. It requires a little investment, and some government capacity to put in place by-laws and ensure that appropriate space is allocated on roads for the purpose of maintaining storm water drains.

Yet, time and again, we have to experience the same spectacle as roofs collapse, roads turn into rivers and nullahs overflow, washing away villages. We are not even halfway through the monsoons but are already feeling the vulnerabilities that the season brings.

It will be a tragedy if later in the season another climate-related calamity strikes, catching us off guard while the authorities chase priorities other than those required to build resilience against adverse weather events.

Building drainage systems in our cities, preventing encroachments on storm water drains, unclogging nullahs are all crucial priorities that have sadly been ignored.

Even more important is building proper early warning systems in the shape of improved forecasting and issuing alerts for potentially affected populations, along with SOPs for coordinating the response to an adverse weather event.

The provincial governments have to play their part in this scheme, and should not be allowed to escape accountability for their failure.

Published in Dawn, July 29th, 2016

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