Keeping Pakistan’s Floods in the News

Last summer floods engulfed one-fifth of Pakistan, affecting almost 20 million of the country’s inhabitants. Immediately following the disaster, the Open Society Foundations provided food relief for those hit hardest. We are currently supporting community organization and rebuilding through help with land clearance, rehabilitation of water courses, water and sewerage rehabilitation, and distribution of seeds and fertilizer, among other things.

As with many disasters on this scale, people initially pay attention mainly as a reaction to the pictures of sheer devastation they see on their TV screens. But as time passes, and the water recedes, so too does people’s interest and engagement. However, the long-term recovery from a disaster of this scale will continue for years—long after the news has stopped following the issue.

Part of the Open Society Foundations’ mandate is to keep this issue in the news—both in and outside of Pakistan. The director of our Pakistan foundation, Absar Alam, hosts a TV show Aaj Ki Khabar (Today’s News) on Aaj TV and he has recently devoted several shows to the floods. On June 8, 2011, he was joined by Marvi Memon, then Member National Assembly (Pakistan Muslim League Q Party); Gul Mohammad Jaffarani, Member National Assembly (Pakistan People’s Party); and Rashida Dohad, civil society worker with the Omar Asghar Khan Development Foundation.

The guests discussed the findings of the report by the Flood Inquiry Commission, established by the Supreme Court of Pakistan to examine the pleadings of various petitioners regarding the 2010 flood. Specifically, the report looked into embankment breaches along the Indus River and whether or not the proper procedure was followed by the relevant authorities.

The report found that some of the major breaches in the barrages of Sindh were caused by a host of factors such as poor maintenance of embankments leading up to the flood, the existence of private bunds in the river belt, failure to observe barrage gate regulations at critical hours, the use of substandard material for repairs, conceptual and design flaws, and complacency and inconsistency with officially approved plans by the duty staff.

The guests discussed the report, along with the illegal practices in and around the bunds which contributed to the breaches and who was responsible for them; how the government is—or is not—responding to the recommendations in the report; preparation for the upcoming monsoon this year (Heavy rainfall is again predicted in areas around river Jhelum, Chenab, Sutlej, and Ravi, which were not flooded last year but are at risk this year); and Pakistan’s response to disasters in the past.

Guests noted that between 1998 and 2008, only 9 percent of government expenditures for natural disasters went toward prevention whereas 91 percent went toward relief and rehabilitation in the wake of a event. They argued that the approach needs to change and that the country needs to implement more effective early warning systems and a more systematic approach to identifying, assessing, and reducing the risks of disasters.

You can watch the show in its entirety here (note the clips are in Urdu):

 

Part 1

 

Part 2

 

Part 3

On June 23, 2011, the show was recorded on location in Swat, Pakistan. Swat is a valley and an administrative district in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province of Pakistan. It is the upper valley of the Swat River, which rises in the Hindu Kush range and was flooded during the 2010 floods, causing immense destruction of roads, bridges, buildings, agricultural land and livelihoods in the area.

While the Khyber Pakthunkhwa government has just announced 30 million Pakistani rupees for “Jashan e Swat”—a festival of celebration in Swat to promote tourism in the area—flood rehabilitation work in the area has still been next to nothing. The show interviewed local residents about the governments’ post-flood response. Local complain of isolation and inability to travel as destroyed roads and bridges that have not yet been repaired. Furthermore, no one in Swat has received compensation from the government to recover from their losses.

You can watch the show in its entirety here (note the clips are in Urdu):

 

Part 1

 

Part 2

 

Part 3

3 Comments

The only solution is to get of the country from poor political leadership.

Thanks Natalia for the post. I think it is very important not to allow the disastrous flood brushed under the carpet. we should keep asking about the human factors involved in it and what could have been avoided?

Best wishes,

Khan
Karachi

Dear Natalia. As FOSI has started rehabilitation effort in south Punjab (Muzaffargarh) with Mojaz Foundation, it was unique in practice and theme. The conceptual theory of project was of different kind with respect to the other organizations working in the area. You have also visited the area and feel the difference. The community of such area where literacy rate was between 3/7 (Female/Male), hard job to motivate. The duration of project was short but we have achieved the target up to mark. Such kind of community needs long term assistance to make them sustainable. Any how it was an excellent exercise from FOSI.

Regards,

Asif Shah.

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