Monsoon blues

With the advent of the monsoon season, the performance of our governments —federal and provincial — has been further exposed. Heavy rains in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab, including the federal capital, have swept away the tall claims of the authorities that preparations have been made to face the rains this year. How the rainwater managed to enter the Presidency, Cabinet Division and the National Assembly’s buildings is anyone’s guess. Roads, underpasses, parks and residential buildings remained inundated for hours. However, a ‘fact finding’ inquiry is underway. Four people lost their lives as the roofs of their houses caved in.

The first heavy downpour of this monsoon season painted a picture that is not unusual in our country. Every year, rains disrupt life across the country in the same manner and every year our federal and provincial governments resolve to correct the faulty drainage system. Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani chaired a special pre-monsoon coordination committee at the end of June to work out a strategy to face any possible challenges during the upcoming monsoon season.

Unfortunately, our governments seem incapable of responding to exceptional conditions. The excuse of lack of funds has also lost worth due to its overuse. Had advance preparations been made, disruption would have been averted, or at the very least minimised. There are several low-lying areas in our cities that submerge whenever it rains. The fate of these areas has been the same since decades. No government has improved the sewerage and drainage system there.

Throughout the country, stormwater drains are being used for sewerage. These drains are choked with solid waste and in every monsoon season, instead of draining the rainwater, sewerage water overflows from these drains, creating puddles of filthy and muddy water in the roads. As a result of poor sanitation, diseases like hepatitis, malaria, cholera and diarrhoea spread quickly.

It seems that there is no adequate system for sewerage and solid waste management across the country. There is a need to overhaul the whole system, but paucity of funds may dictate formulating a phase-wise plan to ensure effective rainwater and sewerage management. The flooding in underpasses in Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi seems to be a universal design fault.

It should be taken care of once and for all. The government should initiate awareness-raising campaigns, educating the public, especially those living in low-income areas, about proper waste management. The practice of dumping garbage in the drains should be condemned. Last but not least, people living in dilapidated buildings should be served notices on a regular basis to vacate their properties in time to avert loss of life in roof collapse incidents during the heavy showers, with alternative provision made for them. – Dailytimes