I HAVE personally seen the floods in 1959 when water had submerged even the Teen Hatti bridge over Lyari Creek. The other floods — in 1973, 1983, 1992, 2003, 2007, 2010 and 2019 — were no less damaging. Heavy rains are not the sole cause of recent damage in Sindh and Balochistan. La Niña is a process that affects nearly all tropical areas on the planet.
This year, the months before the monsoon were very hot, and when that happens, monsoon has to be heavy as well. According to a New York Times report that relied on Columbia University Climate School research, the 2010 floods in Pakistan had far more losses of human fatalities (180 per cent in 2010 compared to 2022), people displaced (200pc in 2010), homes destroyed (600pc), and financial damage (30pc more in 2010).
In 2019, Karachi received massive rain in a single day, and the city got flooded because Malir and Korangi water outlets had been filled in by the DHA, and the naval college was right inside the Korangi Creek, blocking the outlets.
The federal government at the time, backed by powerful elements, forced the ruling party in Sindh to hand over Rs1,100 billion from the provincial resources. However, no work was ever done in Karachi using that money. So who got rich in the process? Where has that money gone? Lack of answers to such questions means that when the monsoon gets heavier the next time, we will still be caught unprepared.
Ahead of the recent flooding, India received massive rains due to La Niña, and it released water from its dams and diversion canals full stream into the otherwise dry Sutlej, Chenab and Bias rivers. Punjab has lined/dyked up all its canals from the money Pakistan received on account of handing over the same three rivers to India. It helped Punjab trim its water losses.
According to Yale University Climate Connection, temperatures in the northern areas were not much above normal. No significant glacial lake burst happened. There was not much glacier activity per se. There were some strong river currents that damaged poorly-constructed village homes/hotels.
In Punjab, the situation was different. It released overflows from its seven major dams, all canals, and its 17 barrages into the Indus. There has been no waterworks done in Sindh over the last 75 years, and the only two barrages in the province are over 90 years old. The Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda) is focussing solely on Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), which is a pity.
The problems for Sindh and Balochistan will remain unchanged till federal agencies start behaving like truly federal agencies.
Syed Shams Naqvi
New York, USA
Published in Dawn, October 4th, 2022