IN Pakistan, rain presents itself as both a blessing and a curse. In recent years, however, it is the latter that is being increasingly witnessed. The Met department has predicted a weeklong spell of heavy rainfall in many parts of the country. While this will bring cooler temperatures to many and offer some respite from the suffocating summer heat, fears of flash floods and landslides loom, along with heavy winds and dust storms. Earlier, the Federal Flood Commission had warned of an extreme monsoon season throughout the country. TheMet department has alerted the authorities to prepare for the worst, as parts of the country receive their first bout of the seasonal monsoon rains. In the meantime, the Provincial Disaster Management Authority in Peshawar has issued warnings and requested tourists travelling to northern parts of the country this week to avoid high-risk areas, while Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar has directed the concerned departments to ensure preventive measures to thwart flooding. The vagaries of nature cannot be altered, but the human response to environmental threats can certainly be improved. Damage caused by flooding in particular is the result of poor planning and ineffective water management in most instances.
Pakistan is no stranger to flooding, having witnessed several horrific floods in Sindh in the past decade. The country’s largely agricultural economy and rural workforce is threatened each year by these floods. Even in Karachi, moderate levels of rainfall have caused irrevocable destruction on an unacceptable scale. In the not-too-distant past, Pakistan’s largest city has seen urban flooding and power outages due to poor drainage systems; while weak civic infrastructure has led to the entirely preventable loss of life and property. Deaths were reported from electrocution or homes and places of work collapsing upon the unfortunate bystanders. One can only hope lessons from the past have been learnt, and that the local administrations in the flood-prone areas, along with the federal government, are prepared for any worst-case scenario.
Published in Dawn, July 13th, 2019