Rein in the rains

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Twelve people were killed by flash floods – triggered by heavy rains – in South Waziristan and Pishin districts over the weekend.A vehicle got caught in a flash flood and was swept away. Two children drowned in the floodwaters in another area in South Waziristan. Separately, four people of a family were killed in Pishin.

And all this is happening three months shy of the monsoon.  The recent incident where a dozen lost their lives should serve as a wakeup call for the communities most vulnerable to floods as well the authorities concerned.

For the upcoming monsoon season, flood situation is highly likely due to more than normal snowfall and the expected rainfalls.

The question is: are we prepared enough to avoid the loss of life and property? If the authorities concerned were not able to predict this spell of rain in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces, which it did not, and could not take the precautionary measures to protect the people, what is there for the people to believe that the situation shall be any better in 2 months from now when the pre-monsoon arrives?

The super floods of 2010 alone had killed nearly two thousand people, making at least 8 million people food insecure while inflicting a loss of over $16 billion.The humanitarian sector specialists argue that every rupee spent in prevention can save up to a dollar in case a flood hits.

The National Disaster Management Authority makes no bones about the unavailability of sufficient funds for flood forecasting, warning system and building flood protection structures.

Much like other local government institutions the district-tier of disaster management infrastructure – where they exist at all – lacks the necessary staff, skill, equipment and funds.

The much talked about ‘billion tree tsunami’ in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province did not do much by way of preventing flash floods. Deforestation in the hilly regions is a major reason for flash floods bringing with it mud avalanches leaving very little time for people to evacuate. Down South in the plains, the unchecked encroachment on water’s right of way is one reason behind massive causalities and displacement.

Be that as it may, the question that the people should be asking themselves is that is it just the government’s responsibility to be in a state of readiness all the time? Is it not the communities’ responsibility as well to not only protect the forests in their surroundings but also report the massive tree felling to the departments concerned? It will not be entirely wrong to say that while the elements of nature lately have not been all that kind upon the country, it is the sheer lack of planning and preparedness on the part of the successive governments and complacency on the part of the people that keeps the vulnerable populace as miserable as they have been. Climatic changes are increasingly getting difficult to predict; so stay prepared or be willing to perish. The call is as simple as it gets.