City fathers, NDMA etc must shake off their downy sleep
It is not long ago but Rawalpindi suffered the worst flood in Leh. This was July 23, 2001. The deluge besides taking a big toll of life submerged most of the old city that happens to be low-lying. The loss of men and material was so huge that it shook all and sundry.
Since then Nature has been merciful and a flood of the same magnitude did not visit the city.
On Friday the 10th of this month, i.e. only four or five days ago a private TV channel warned the residents of low-lying areas, ostensibly referring to Met office reports that due to unusual heavy rains the Leh will overflow and submerge the old city. To add to the worries of the people most likely to be affected, the channel informed that the system used to blurt warning signals has gone out of order. The channel urged the citizens not to wait for a siren but take their belongings to safer places. The message was telecast many a time.
This sent shivers to the poor souls that had once gone through the ordeal. But all praise to Allah Almighty that the rains did not hit the region, or at least the city that night. But there is no room for complacency. We have been hearing a lot about global warming and the el-nino phenomenon. There have been freak rains in May and June and who knows that the furies make their appearance once again and inundate the heart of Rawalpindi in the coming monsoons or even earlier.
The most regrettable aspect of the story is that even after fifteen years, nothing solid or sincere has been done to stave off the disaster of floods in Leh one and for all. After the 2001 deluge much was heard about diverting all the rain water in the catchment area of Islamabad to Rawal and ultimately to the Korang. They say that this solution was offered by Japan which entailed monetary assistance too. There seems nothing to suggest why the proposal was not taken seriously. The city fathers confined only to short term solution of dredging the nullah. Every year plans for 'bhal safai' are widely publicized. Some high-up may also visit the nullah and some job might have been done. But it can be said with certitude that 'real bhal safai' was never done even once in these long years. Statements to this effect that almost every year come in May or even June, whereas the right time to do this onerous job is February and March. There is another hazard that can frustrate all genuine efforts in this regard. Huge encroachments on the banks of nullah have taken place and still continue. The city fathers do try to undo these encroachment but somehow they have to beat a retreat.
Taking a cue from brotherly Turkey, the Punjab government made a firm effort to make the city clean. It was pleasure to see smartly turned out staff lift all the dirt and night soil from nook and cranny of the city and carry them in covered trucks to dispose it of. One praised the keenness of the government to make Rawalpindi a clean city. But one was shaken to the foundation to smell the stench and the polluted atmosphere in and around Liaquat Garden and around. The curious minds learnt that all the dirt thus gathered is stockpiled in the Liaquat Bagh just next to the Leh nullah. In case of heavy rains, these mountains of garb can choke the water and may cause a disaster worse than of 2001.
Is it not a fit case for the indefatigable and visionary chief minister of the Punjab to take notice? I dare say that he would issue immediate orders to those responsible for the job in the city, to straighten the matter on a war footing. The city fathers must be asked to 'shake off their downy sleep' so that the majority of population does not have sleepless nights.