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July 11, 2019

Dangerous patterns


July 11, 2019

The Chitral district, which had until the past few years rarely known floods, has been hit once again by hill torrents, causing flooding the Golen Gol area and cutting it off from other parts of the country. This is the third year that Chitral has faced debilitating floods. Climate change is being cited by experts as the reason behind this new, dangerous pattern. This year, a glacial lake exploded overnight, washing away five bridges and the Azghor Valley road. Tourists were left stranded, though a few were airlifted safely. No loss of life has been reported but road access has been cut off and local officials fear that cattle could be badly affected.

But is this just the start of further peril ahead? A meeting of the Federal Flood Commission was told recently that the country could face extreme floods, notably along its riverine areas. The meeting was told that relevant laws should immediately be enacted and brought into force to protect encroachments which have cropped up along river banks and areas on lower lands located close to rivers to prevent potential catastrophe and loss of life. Heavy monsoon rains, combined with westerly incursion and snow melt, are being blamed for the potential problem.

It is then quite obvious that Pakistan remains prone to a variety of climatic hazards, with global warming – according to experts in several reports published this year – contributing to this. It is still uncertain that we have sufficient plans in place to cope with any problem that may occur. The NDMA and PDMAs are all operative. But in the past, we have found they have lacked the resources to offer much in terms of rescue and rehabilitation, with the armed forces usually taking over this task. The early issuing of flood warnings this year means that there is plenty of time to act. In the weeks we still have ahead before the full force of the monsoon strikes, we should be working out systems involving the evacuation of the most vulnerable populations where necessary and ensuring rescuers are available on the ground in areas most likely to be hit by floods. This is a strategy being used around the world, where local people are trained in advance so that they can offer immediate help without waiting for aid and expertise to be brought in from other places. In the past, Pakistan has suffered terrible consequences as a result of flood. We should look back at the lessons from these natural calamities and devise a strategy to avoid people falling into greater danger and greater hardship.

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