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Flood plans

July 27, 2012

THE lessons of the past two years have taught us that long-term, concrete plans are needed to deal with flooding in the country, and that piecemeal efforts will be of little help. Keeping that in mind, it is welcome that the National Disaster Management Authority has announced that a flood contingency plan has been finalised. Yet as a report published in this paper on Thursday points out, Pakistan’s flood forecasting system is flawed. Having a plan ready to deal with natural disasters is only the first step. If flood forecasting technology is flawed, even the best plans can prove to be insufficient. The country has been provided remote-sensing technology through foreign help. But lack of reliable data and an outdated weather radar system means that the advanced technology cannot be optimally used to predict floods.

As far as the flood forecasting system is concerned, the loopholes need to be plugged so that the system can provide effective early warning to vulnerable areas. As for the NDMA’s contingency plan, it should be followed at all levels. For example, it must be ensured that those with influence are not allowed to divert any floodwaters elsewhere, as was alleged in the past. The logistical issues also need to be addressed with some haste, as the forecast is of erratic showers. In this regard, the centre and the provinces need to provide the requisite funds to ensure funding gaps do not hold up relief work, while the required number of tents and blankets also needs to be procured. As for the situation in Sindh, which bore the brunt of past floods, reports indicate that repair work on river dykes is mostly complete. However, encroachments in the kacha areas have not been removed. Needless to say, those who set up house on embankments and river beds put themselves in harm’s way and it is the state’s job to clear these areas of encroachments. Natural disasters are by definition unpredictable. Yet it is entirely possible to prepare for such scenarios as best as possible. We hope this time around all tiers of government area ready to deal with the floods and their aftermath.