Thursday March 30, 2023

Heavily silted Guddu-Kotri stretch caused Sindh flooding

Due to massive siltation, Indus River water easily flowed out of the brims causing unprecedented havoc in low riparian Sindh

September 02, 2022
—Radio Pakistan
—Radio Pakistan 

ISLAMABAD: The silted Guddu-Kotri stretch in the Indus River, the failure to arrange Rs332.246 billion funding required to implement the National Flood Protection Plan (NFPP)-IV, and squeezed role of the Federal Flood Commission (FFC) apart from unprecedented rains in Sindh and Baluchistan, and hill torrents in DG Khan and Rajanpur played the catastrophic role in increasing the annihilation of the flood manifold.

The background discussion with top officials of the Ministry of Water Resources, FFC, and Indus River System Authority (IRSA) brought to the fore the factors leading to the disastrous deluge, far worse than that of 2010. 

According to these officials, the Guddu-Kotri reach has been heavily silted dangerously reducing the depth of the river bed which caused the Indus to spill from its banks. Due to the massive siltation in the reach, the river water easily flowed out of the brims causing unprecedented havoc in the low riparian Sindh. Besides dykes have also been built in the river bed to make lake-like structures allowing water for agricultural purposes in the leaner years by influential landowners, which further squeezed the river bed.

Together these factors only allowed 800,000 cusecs of water to flow instead of 1,200,000 cusecs that used to pass quite uninterrupted without causing an incident. The settlements by influential landlords including those by the famous spiritual leader of Sindh on the plains of the Indus Rivers for the cultivation of crops also caused the higher damage.

Furthermore, over the years, the Federal Flood Commission (FFC) has eroded its capacity to deal with flood protection plans, while its role has also been squeezed in the National Disaster Risk Management Fund (NDRMF). So much so the NDRMF and provincial governments complete the projects related to the mitigation of floods ignoring the federal Flood Commission. More importantly, donor agencies are directly in contact with provincial governments ignoring the FFC. The FFC still deals with need-based flood mitigation projects. When FFC Chairman Ahmed Kamal was asked as to why it failed to implement the National Flood Protection Plan-IV ( NFPP IV), he said on May 2017, the Council of Common Interests (CCI) approved the NFPP-IV worth Rs332.246 billion. The PC-1 was approved with Center providing financing of 50 per cent and 50 per cent by the provincial governments.

But later on, pre-CDWP meeting held in April 2019 it was observed that there is ‘no fiscal space’ to arrange the financing for the plan. So the top decision-makers in consultation with provincial irrigation departments reduced the plan with priority projects worth Rs95.98 billion and in October 2020 CWDP meeting asked EAD to contact international donors. The EAD contacted WB, ADB, Kuwait Fund, Saudi Fund, JICA, and USAID but failed to arrange the funds. However, in 2021, CDWP was told by EAD that the World Bank and ADB are now considering funding the NFPP-IV. The ADB on January 26, 2022, informed that their mission will arrive in Pakistan by May 21 and will remain till June 30 when they will provide funding under the Climate Resilient Programme.

However, meanwhile, the ready-to-implement projects from provinces were forwarded to the National Disaster Risk Management Fund. The NDRMF in its financing has a 70 percent share from ADB and 30 percent from the government of Pakistan. Out of 30 percent, the Center and provincial governments would share 50:50 per cent funding. The NDRMF will technically assess whether the projects are technically feasible or not and will be finalized by September 30. In the said project there is no role of FFC and this is how the role of FFC has been squeezed.

When asked why FFC failed to increase its spending capacity by more than 25 percent in the first three national flood protection plans, the official at the FFC admitted the fact that it spent Rs 25 billion in the first three plans against the demand of Rs124 billion. He said that there were also loans from ADB and the Manila-based bank completed many schemes in the first three plans. He said that consultants had noted that the provincial governments lacked the professional capacity to spend the amount on the projects related to mitigating the flood. He referred to the breaching of 9 small dams in Balochistan arguing it exposed the professional capacity to spend and build the dams.

Meanwhile, Arshad H Abbasi, Pakistan’s eminent water expert explained that the inept officials of the Climate Ministry wrongly used the Climate Change term to justify heavy rains, whereas during the last decade the north-westerly monsoon has significantly shifted southwards increasing the rainfall considerably in Karachi and Sindh.

Earlier, a Judicial Flood Inquiry Tribunal report 2010, titled ‘A Rude Awakening’, conducted and authored by a former Judge of the Lahore High Court, Justice Mansoor Ali Shah with regard to 2010 flood said the Federal Flood for Commission Pakistan ( FFC) works under the Ministry of Water & Power. The FFC has the right to plan, monitor, and execute flood control projects for the effective management of floods. Since its establishment in 1976, it has spent Rs. 35.8 billion and $ 400 million (Rs 34 billion) on flood mitigation projects before the 2010 flood.

In the 2010 report, the current Chairman and the previous Chairmen were held as accountable for their failed stewardship of the Commission since 1977. The country does not have an Integrated Flood Management Plan and this omission is criminal the Chairmen must be held accountable for it. We recommend the Federal Government hold a detailed audit of the FFC by a panel of experts including members of civil society to assess the performance of the FFC since its inception. The report also raised questions as to why has FFC failed to develop a Flood Management Plan and how and why has the FFC continued to approve localized flood sector schemes without first assessing their need in the larger context of the Flood Management Plan.

“FFC needs to be pulled out of its cocoon – it is not to act as a lame secretariat or a post office for the PIDs but must immediately assume its real role as a principal flood sector authority of the country.” The report recommended that the Federal Government must ensure that FFC develops the first-ever National Flood Management Plan before the start of the next flood season and shares it with the flood managers of the provinces. In doing so, FFC is to have a participatory approach and should involve the local residents of the area. FFC must display the said PLAN on its website for broader dissemination.