Disaster hits again

Disaster hits again

After the lapse of just one year, floods have made a comeback, wreaking havoc in lower parts of Sindh and some parts of Punjab. The intermittent monsoon downpour, which continued for three days in Sindh, has affected more than 750,000 people and killed 25 while displacing approximately 50,000 people so far. Adding to the misery are reports that India is likely to release a flood torrent in the River Sutlej soon following widespread rains in catchment areas. In that case, more areas in Punjab would be flooded.

The sluggish response of both the governments — provincial and federal — to the calamity-hit areas and their people cannot be condemned enough. Like last year, their underperformance regarding relief and rehabilitation efforts is once again making the headlines. The hapless people have taken refuge on high ground under the open sky. Their livestock, seed stock and standing crops have been submerged, once again depriving them of their minimal livelihood. The country is still reeling from last year’s floods and now it has been hit hard once again.

It was being hoped that this time the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) would handle the situation with the help of rainstorm forecasts and flood warnings but the unfortunate history of last year has been repeated. We saw in last year’s floods that the inherent capacity and faulty structure of the canals and drains, and the natural and illegal breaches at several points in their embankments by influential people to save their own lands from the deluge had submerged a vast area of the country.

This year too, the breaches in canals and drains, especially the Left Bank Outfall Drain (LBOD), remained unplugged and inundated hundreds of villages in Sindh. It seems that we have not moved an inch forward from the situation last year. Prime Minister Gilani visited the flood-hit areas in Sindh on Monday and gave the same directions to the authorities responsible for relief and rehabilitation efforts and made the same promises to the unfortunate people. Again, he visited a fake relief camp set up in Kunri, Umerkot, and the real affectees could not even catch a glimpse of him, let alone any relief goods.

We have been saying in this space since last year that dealing with the post-flood situation is an enormous challenge, which demands an equally massive response from the government. Being short of resources, our government needs the world’s help at this point too. But due to rampant corruption, the government has lost credibility in the eyes of international donors. In the present crisis, the response of international donors and aid agencies needs to be accelerated once again through bilateral and multilateral arrangements. As there is a forecast of more rains, the NDMA should prove its existence and provide meaningful relief and rehabilitation to the affectees on a war footing. – Dailytimes