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Pakistan can face ‘super flood’ this year, NA body told

Updated March 20, 2019

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The chances of a big flood were relatively higher this year due to higher than normal snow deposits on mountains and catchments of major rivers. — AFP/File
The chances of a big flood were relatively higher this year due to higher than normal snow deposits on mountains and catchments of major rivers. — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan could face a ‘major’ to ‘super flood’ during the monsoon season owing to higher than normal snowfall and other climatic changes in the country this year, two senior government officials informed the National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Water Resources on Tuesday.

They said more funds and effective preparedness would be required to minimise damage from possible flooding in the country.

The chances of a big flood were relatively higher this year due to higher than normal snow deposits on mountains and catchments of major rivers, Syed Mehr Ali Shah, acting secretary of water resources, informed the NA committee as he tried to make a case for the release of at least Rs15 billion for flood protection activities at the earliest.

Senior officials call for release of Rs15 billion for flood protection activities

Briefing the NA committee’s meeting presided over by Nawab Yousuf Talpur, Mr Shah, who also holds the acting charge of Pakistan’s Indus Water Commission, said that Pakistan had suffered losses worth $19bn due to flooding over the past 60 years. The country suffered $19bn direct losses since 2010 floods because of higher population and currency depreciation factor, he added.

He said funds spent on flood protection were very little when compared to damage caused by flooding in the country.

Seconding the opinion of Mr Shah, Federal Flood Commission chairman and chief engineering adviser Ahmad Kamal said that there was a chance of a “very high flood” this year. He was of the opinion that Pakistan appeared to be facing a high impact of climate change. Whenever two events — simultaneous monsoon rainfalls on northern parts of the country and the entry of westerly waves in Balochistan and southern parts of the country — occur at the same time, “we can have a super flood anytime”.

He said snowfall continued in some parts of the country even in March — a rare phenomenon — and was indicative of greater chances of ‘high to very high floods’.

Mr Kamal stressed the need for the release of Rs15bn at the very minimum for flood protection activities before the beginning of the monsoon season so that all high priority projects that have been finalised in consultation with provincial governments could be completed. He said the PC-1 for these projects was submitted to the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (Ecnec) a few months ago and its approval was awaited.

Mr Shah said the fourth Flood Protection Programme was approved by the federal government and the provinces at the Council of Common Interests (CCI) level in 2017 with a total cost of Rs326bn for implementation in 10 years. The funds were to be contributed by all the five stakeholders depending on provincial needs and schemes. The then government, he added, had decided to implement the project in two phases of five-year each.

Former minister for water and power Khawaja Asif said that the floods in 2010 alone caused losses of $10bn in direct damage to lives and properties. He said funds available for flood protection were ridiculously low in comparison. Funds could be made available with proper lobbying with development partners provided the federal and provincial governments were onboard and prepared good projects, he added.

He said the CCI believed the flood protection was a provincial subject and the provinces should finance more and more projects in their domains to protect lives, properties, agriculture and livelihood of their populations.

Mr Shah claimed that the ruling political parties in the country historically had not given due seriousness to water sector projects perhaps because their completion took longer time than the tenures of their governments.

Published in Dawn, March 20th, 2019