After receiving fresh warnings of floods, the provincial government has started resource mapping at the district level and also directed district governments to strengthen networking with the NGOs that were active in their respective areas following the floods in the years 2010 and 2011.
Following these instructions, the district governments have started holding meetings with NGOs and invited them to share their stocks of relief items with the government. However, only a few NGOs have responded positively and acknowledged that they had relief items stocked for future emergencies. Most of them are reluctant to share their resources with the government.
Development experts see a lacking of will and commitment on part of government officials as well as NGOs to deal with a possible natural calamity.
Prof M Ismail Kumbhar, a development researcher associated with the Agriculture University Tando Jam, said the government had allocated Rs1.5 billion for the rehabilitation of the damaged Left Bank Outfall Drainage and other drains. The work was scheduled to be completed by June 30 this year. “But in many areas, these drains are vulnerable to breaches and the people living in their surrounding areas might face colossal losses in case of heavy rains.”
Similarly, he said, the Molchand Surjani embankment, which breached near Kot Almo during the 2010 floods and inundated Sujawal and peripheral areas of Thatta, was also in a vulnerable condition, as the government had only managed to stone-pitch 1,800 feet of its area and ignored the rest of it.
The provincial government had also started removing encroachments on Puran Dhoro in Jhudo Town, but achieved no positive results.
Puran Dhoro is a 300 feet wide natural drain that carries rainwater during the monsoon season. It flows from Punjab and ends at the Rann of Kutch in Badin district. After the construction of encroachments on the drain, it has been narrowed to only 25 or 30 feet.
The government does not have data on the houses, markets and other encroachments built on the drain. There are encroachments constructed on the Puran Dhoro near Naokot as well.
Influential people enjoying the backing of higher authorities have encroached wide parts of the drain at different points. Despite clear instructions, it is difficult for the local administration to demolish the illegally built structures.
The vulnerability of the province’s coastal areas can be gauged from the fact that a few days ago, high tides caused by strong winds flooded many villages. Many small bridges were destroyed during the 2011 floods, but their reconstruction was not included in the plan to repair drains.
District governments have been unable to establish funding resources to deal with another flood emergency. They do not have the stocks of food, dewatering pumps and other machinery, tents and medicines that are required in case of another natural disaster.
Adviser to Sindh Chief Minister on Relief Haleem Adil Shaikh told The News that the provincial government has directed the district authorities to mobilise their resources and strengthen coordination with local and international humanitarian organisations so that an effective strategy could be prepared before any emergency occurred.
“As far as establishing funding resources is concerned, they [district governments] have written to the provincial government to allocate funds for them so that they can purchase the things needed during an emergency.”
He said the government had learnt its lessons from the previous two disasters and was now capable of meeting the challenge.
“We are identifying government school buildings in all areas so that they can be used as relief camps and accommodate families in case of an emergency. District governments have been asked to prepare reports on their capacity and needs so that the gaps can be filled and losses averted.”
Some districts including Tando Allahyar, Sanghar and parts of Matiari are still inundated following last year’s floods because there is no proper drainage system. In case these areas receive heavy rains this year, there will be more destruction.
According to some experts, the government’s capacity could be gauged from the fact that when the floodwater hit the Rajanpur area of southern Punjab in the year 2010, the Sindh government had almost done nothing to deal with the situation as the floodwater took 21 days to cross the Kotri Bridge.
After the 2010 floods, all humanitarian organisations had started preparing effective contingency plans on the directives of UN clusters. But because of a lack of commitment, they were unable to respond effectively, as was evident in their performance when the floods struck the province again in the year 2011.