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August 4, 2010 / Rehman Azhar

Next Phase of Devastation

Pakistani children sit on a bed to eat their food, in a flood hit area of Qasim Bella, on the outskirts of Multan, Pakistan. Hundreds of villages and towns were under several feet of water. (AP Photo/Khalid Tanveer)

What is the extent of devastation?

Floodwater in Pakistan is still causing havoc. Peak of flowing water is ranging from 950,000 cusecs to 1,050,000 cusecs at different spots now as it passes through provinces of Sindh and Punjab. It has been a month of torrential rains in Pakistan and the resulting flood is being considered the worst in Pakistan’s history.  It is very difficult to assess the extent of devastation right now. We can only talk about the number of people killed or rendered homeless; leave aside the damage to the infrastructure. UN reports have suggested that nearly 1000 villages have been affected and some 15000 houses have been destroyed. The death toll has already crossed 1400. There is no compensation for the loss of human lives but when it comes to Pakistan there is neither for infrastructure. Floodwater inundated those areas and washed away bridges, schools and hospital buildings, roads and electricity installations. Worst affected is the mainstay of the population i.e. agriculture. In most of the flooded areas, people rely on agriculture for their living: growing small crops and breeding cattle. Lets get things not complicated by talking about macroeconomics here. About the individuals or families – crops have been destroyed while the cattle have been killed, people rendered homeless and they have nowhere to go now. This is the story of common man affected by the flood.

How government has dealt with the situation so far?

Government says it is doing whatever it can. As it always happens in Pakistan, army was called in for support even after this natural catastrophe.  Spokesperson for the army says that they are using all resources they have for the evacuation of the people from affected areas. Government is vying to provide people support in camps set up for the affected people. Although media reports suggest that people are angry with the government who has been under criticism for its lack of preparedness and response to the situation. It is to be remembered that Pakistan is a third world country where little attention is paid to vigilance against possible natural catastrophe. Even if there were warnings of such rains, a government and military fighting the inevitable war against terror had already their hands full.

What is the nature of challenge?

The United Nations has estimated that more than one million people are in need of emergency aid. It has warned of serious food shortages following the loss of farm produce in the floods. The World Food Program has estimated that 1.8 million people will need to be fed over the next month. The challenge is not just to feed these people. More flooding and rains that are predicted in next few days can make situation worse by prompting the possible spread of diseases. In such times, people tend to look for aid from wherever it comes. In Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, government closed down some camps being run by the banned outfits. But at the same time, government of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa has also frozen all developmental work that is going on in the province. Areas that are badly affected by the floods included Swat Valley as well, which was cleared by the army after a military operation in 2009 and government is now trying to rebuild it. These efforts for reconstruction are surely to get affected and might provide chances for resurgence of militancy in the wake of chaotic situation. Supply to the NATO forces fighting in Afghanistan has also been affected since routes go through the areas flooded by the rains.

Some support has come due to the news about floods making headlines in international media. Red Cross, UN and its agencies are already busy doing their work in areas affected. International aid has been promised by United States, UK, Italy, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia and Japan, but over all the response has been lukewarm and there is still lot to be done.

What’s next?

Fresh flood warnings were issued on Tuesday for Sindh, Punjab and Balouchistan that has also resulted in mass exodus of the people from these areas – another challenge for the authorities. Spread of diseases or an outbreak of an epidemic is not being ruled out, as there will be more rains. People who are homeless are either stationed with their relatives or in camps set up by the government. The damage to the infrastructure seems irreparable. In a country where people are normally struggling for amenities might find themselves deprived of all that for a long time. It will take a lot of time and resources building those bridges, hospitals, schools, roads, and electricity installations again. Population that relied on agriculture and cattle for living have now nothing to feed them on except government aid. A government who is not doing so well with the finances seems to be in need to extra wads of cash to deal with this extra ordinary situation. The floodwater will come down in days to come and the rains will stop as well. What would happen then? That’s the question and that’s when the next phase of devastation starts.

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14 Comments

Leave a Comment
  1. Sana Raoof Ali / Aug 4 2010 8:47 pm

    Surely, rebuilding affected areas takes up a lot of time and especially in a country like Pakistan where resources are less and activities carried out for the rebuilding process are slow. For quite a few days the government initiates plans and speaks on high level to accomodate the affectees but the implementation of these plans takes ages. The earthquake disaster is one such example and now this flood disaster will make another. Aid takes time to reach the affected areas, however many institutions and organizations inside and outside Pakistan try to help as much as they can. But what about all that has been lost? It cannot be re gained. Altogether these people have to start a new life with new beginnings. How tough is that, no one knows. The government needs to be more active, accomodating and resourceful towards the affectees. With whole hearted help and sincere efforts only, such disasters can be overcome.

    • Rehman Azhar / Aug 6 2010 7:19 pm

      Well said Sana. All that has been lost if more difficult to gain keeping in mind the problems Pakistan is facing right now on political and economic front.

  2. ana / Aug 5 2010 8:59 am

    I liked your analysis. Unfortunatelly, it takes time for the government to rebuild what floods destroy and they need a long term strategy because I guess from now on there will be floods every year. It’s the same in Romania. We have floods every year and they still do nothing.

    • Rehman Azhar / Aug 6 2010 7:20 pm

      Ana.. I guess its with the most of the countries. High ups are not the ones who suffer. It is always the common man. It is appalling to see how mere negligence can result in so much destruction and death.

  3. majid butt / Aug 5 2010 11:51 am

    incidents are all very traumatic, and gradually tends to worse…as far as our fed. govt is concerned, they are pathetically intransigent to the prevailing situations in southern punjab and sindh, privileged strata nev tends to bother what a lay man is going through……

    • Rehman Azhar / Aug 6 2010 7:23 pm

      Thats the point. Everyone is focusing on what is happening now. Recently we had a statement from an official that the devastation caused by this flood to the infrastructure has actually crossed the one caused by earthquake in 2005. We got millions of dollars in aid back then. What are getting now ?

  4. Hammad Javed / Aug 5 2010 5:38 pm

    well what all said above is enough. I just would add that every person should make an effort to overcome this “fury of nature”. unlike our despicable so called leaders who are blinded by the glitter that they can’t even differentiate a fake flood relief camp from rest. I really really felt sorry for all those affected..

    • Rehman Azhar / Aug 6 2010 7:21 pm

      fake releif camps are the last thing we need now.

  5. Fasiha Khan / Aug 6 2010 9:44 pm

    by that time, flood has strucked sindh regions.. people are again on there own and here’s no one to compensate for there losses. the traumatic situation has arised but the gov. is still numb about it… i am not blaming them but everything is in front of us. they have announced the so called relief camps and funds for their recovery which is God knows where are.
    the govt. is warning the residents there to leave their going to be affected areas but most of them are declining to move away just because people there, have no idea of that disastrous flood and that is because lack of awareness and in a 3rd world country if you are expecting interior villagers to understand the sensitivity of the situation, than thats realy unlikely..
    i dont think that govt. is really playing its original role which is very absurd, even the high officials are not taking it seriously.
    rebuilding going to take alot time and i am sure that govt. still not going to take part in it. poor people will be on their own.
    at the end when we talk about the AID so i dont think that aid going to be in the right hands of its deserving needy people.
    we have to again work alot as this flood has taken pakistan, 50 years back.

  6. mehwish khan / Aug 7 2010 7:25 am

    totally agree with ur points sir…really…the government needs to b more active like sana said…

  7. Labinot / Aug 8 2010 12:19 pm

    Floods that occurred in Pakistan are continuously transmitted in the Kosovo media, and people of Kosovo and our institutions are spiritually with you and your families there.
    Kosovo as a new country in the world, don’t have sufficient capacity to make any huge material contribution, but frankly we share the pain with you and continuously we pray for your people…
    Rehman, now you’re a friend of mine, and with full responsibility if you consider I can contribute something there, as your friend from Kosovo, I am ready to come out there to help your people as much as I can,even to give my blood if is necessary…
    Despite from political problems,you just had plane crash(155 killed) there and now floods(already killed 1,400, displaced 25,000, and put hundreds of thousands of people at risk of homelessness)…Hopefully these will be the last tragedy for Pakistan.
    May God Bless the families and people of Pakistan!

    P.s.through these articles you are giving a contribution to your country, so keep writing …

    • Rehman Azhar / Aug 14 2010 2:21 am

      Thanks a lot Labinot. Your words mean much to me and my countrymen.

  8. Kamran / Aug 8 2010 6:08 pm

    no idea when government will take serious action. All we have to wait again for the Foreign Aid.

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