ISLAMABAD: The National Disaster Management Authority has predicted above-normal rainfall during the monsoon season, which is likely to trigger floods in Punjab’s rivers, and flash floods in the northern part of the country due to as many as four expected Glof (glacial lake outburst flow) events.

According to the NDMA, 40 to 60 per cent more rainfall than usual is likely throughout the country during monsoon. “Three weather anomalies — above normal rains, melting glaciers, and a westerly system — together can cause flooding of the 2014 intensity. The abnormal rains will start from July 25 and continue into August,” said Syed Muhammad Tayab, who was leading the risk assessment team of the technical wing of the NDMA.

He made these remarks while speaking to Dawn on the concluding day of NDMA’s two-day National Monsoon Coordination Conference and National Simulation Exercise with key stakeholders to review monsoon preparedness. He explained that the intensity of the floods in 2024 would be only “25 per cent of the 2010 floods and 20 per cent of the extreme 2022 floods” that rattled Pakistan.

He also said that this year’s winter snow cover was among the lowest in the last 58 years. “Out of the total 36 vulnerable glaciers, four glacial lake outburst flood (Glof) events are expected to happen anytime causing urban flooding in Ghizar and Chitral,” he said, explaining the phenomenon which was caused by higher temperatures every summer.

Official says rains to start from July 25; four Glof events expected in Ghizer, Chitral

Pakistan started keeping a record of floods in 1989 but the historical data could not be relied on since the monsoon behaviour has become “unpredictable” over the years. “Nobody had ever expected a natural disaster of the scale of the 2022 floods. The same was true for the 2010 floods. Historical data is quite meaningless today in extreme weather projections,” he said.

According to the forecast of the National Emergency Operation Centre (NEOC), which was the technical wing of NDMA, and data from the Pakistan Meteorological Department, areas of north Punjab, south Sindh and Balochistan are likely to be affected due to more than normal rains, while in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Gilgit-Baltistan, glaciers melting and Glof may trigger flash floods.

As per forecast based on data accumulated from PMD, the Bureau of Meteorology Australia, and the European and Canadian weather model services besides other meteorological organisations, the NEOC developed a seasonal forecast, which indicated that northern Punjab and its eastern rivers — Ravi, Jehlum and Chenab — would be flooded in the coming monsoon season due to above normal rainfall.

Simulation exercises

In order to prepare itself for the probable rain emergency, the NDMA conducted multi-hazard simulation exercises at the National Emergencies Operation Centre. The purpose of conducting multi-hazard mock exercises was to enhance the preparedness and response capabilities of the provincial disaster management agencies to deal with emergencies, like floods and road closures.

The exercise also emphasised the need for effective coordination and cooperation among all agencies involved in disaster management and relief activities. The participants applied the learned concepts to respond to simulated disasters at local and national levels and showcased their mock exercise results on scenario-based situations.

A statement issued by NDMA said that its chairman, Lt General Inam Haider Malik, had emphasised the importance of a coordinated approach to monsoon preparedness.

“By working together and sharing critical information, we can better protect our communities and reduce the impact of natural disasters,” he said, adding that the conference underscored commitment to proactive disaster management and resilience building.

He highlighted the need for timely training of responders and reviewing stock positions for summer contingencies. This included tackling heat waves, droughts, Glofs, and cyclones. He stressed that proactive measures were essential to mitigate disaster impacts and called for tangible actions before disasters struck.

Published in Dawn, June 6th, 2024

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