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Memories of the Flood 2010

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This article appeared in daily the Nation
After wreaking havoc across the country, the flood waters have slowly surged south along the Indus River, leaving the survivors with numerous daunting issues. According to raw estimates, the worst flood in the history of the country killed more than 1,750 people, forced out at least 10 million people from their homes and caused over $43 billion in damage. The tour of sodden districts highlights more loses and more worries.

Flood began in July. The swollen waters then poured across the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province in the northwest before flowing south into Punjab and Sindh. It is feared that flood may have dangerous long term effects on the stability of the country.

No government could cope well with such a large scale catastrophe, and Pakistan’s is unusually incapable due to lack of will, skills, resources and most of all state of unpreparedness for managing any disaster brought by humans and or nature. There is no single authority working in the country that focuses on disaster management. The National Disaster Management Authority was established in 2007 under the National Disaster Management Ordinance to deal with all aspects of natural as well as human disasters from preparedness and mitigation to recovery and rehabilitation. Disaster management authorities at provincial and district levels were to be established under the ordinance so that disaster management systems could be brought into mainstream planning process. Ironically, three years have passed but this has not happened so far. Punjab government is still thinking that in the presence of existing Relief and Crises Management Department and now also 1122, Punjab province does not need The National Disaster Management Authority in the first place. Absence of any uniform system for planning and preparing to fight any disaster results into poor response. That in return increases sufferings of the effected people.

The sufferings of people of this country are already a great deal worse. Economic growth has plunged down from an annual average of 7% in the mid 2000s to 4.4% last year. Unemployment is estimated to have risen to over 15%, and inflation, currently 13%, and the proportion of people living below the poverty line has fallen from 34.5% to 17%, according to the World Bank. The flood 2010 has made matters much worse.

It is hard to categories but scouting reveals that predominantly small farmers with little holdings and unskilled laborers who work on daily bases to earn their living are most severely affected. Inherently, poor are among the most vulnerable segment of population and almost all live below or just above the national poverty line. More than 60 percent lost immediate access to their primary livelihood and are faced with a drop in their already low income by more than half. Political analysts think that the significant increase in food prices in flood affected areas (and exultantly elsewhere also) is giving it a more dangerous twist.

After the flood, the real danger is to the stability of the country and if not managed efficiently, it may pop up once the first phase of the flood crisis is over. Human beings can accept immediate hardship, but are less able to withstand prolonged hunger, homelessness and helplessness. With no immediate respite in sight, the stalemate could lead to destabilize the country in the times to come and can aggravate the already deep regional security fissures. Life of people who have been displaced and are forced to live in camps established by the government or under makeshift arrangements on their own is very hard. Slow management of the disaster and sluggish relief efforts are adding to their hardships. This has added to the distrust that many people already feel for their governments. “The people say this (flood) was an act of God,” Salman Taseer the governor Punjab, rightly said in an interview after reassuring the crowd, “But what comes now, they say, is the act of man. If we don’t deliver, they will not forgive us.”

People already confronted with severe economic and security problems, may not survive the large scale social upheaval and long term hardship from the floods. What is more, political leaders who are responsible to deliver seem to have become absorbed in scoring points and squabbling. Intense tussles for power seem to be brewing beneath the political sparring, giving birth to rumors, which have added to the disillusionment of many people.

At the same time, the threat from the militant groups continues. Militants, heartless as they are, are continuing to pursue their agenda to destabilize the country by killing innocent people (remember bomb attacks against a religious processions in Punjab and Baluchistan that killed scores of people) right when the flood emergency was at its peak).

Having lost what all they had, the victims of recent floods are now destitute. People of Pakistan are very resilient and they have always been sacrificing on one pretext or the other but they have a limit. Crossing the limit may cause even worst tumult. Anyone listening in the din?

Captions (Image 2 and 3): Lahore School of Economics students and staff are building 13 dwellings for those who were affected by Flood 2010 in village Jampur, South Punjab

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posted by S A J Shirazi @ Wednesday, June 02, 2021,


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