Debris, dreams and development

There is a yawning gap between the scale of disaster and the availability of resources

Debris, dreams and development


he Economic Survey of Pakistan and the federal as well as Sindh’s provincial annual budgets are loaded with references to the 2022 floods. A large part of the budget speech of the Sindh chief minister revolved around the devastating floods of 2022 that perished lives, crops and livestock and destroyed more than two million houses and vital public infrastructure.

A day before the federal budget 2023-24, the Economic Survey of Pakistan was released. The 467-page document mentioned the floods 188 times. Last year’s sluggish economic performance was attributed mainly to the floods and political instability. Dismal performance of every sector was ascribed to the flood disaster. The government generously praised its response to the disaster, particularly mentioning a timely assistance of Rs 69 billion to the 2.76 million flood victims.

The Annual Development Plan of the federal government also mentioned the floods 171 times. The scale of damage was recounted in all budget related documents. The federal government’s Public Sector Development Plan (PSDP) allocates Rs 11.3 billion for the Flood Protection Sector Project-III under an umbrella PC-1 amounting to Rs 194.6 billion. The PSDP also mentions the launching of an updated National Flood Protection Plan-IV in the post-flood 2022 scenario based on an integrated flood risk management approach. Based on lessons from the 2022 floods, the scope of the project has been widened by adding new features. The additions include improvement (restoration and remodelling of drains/ waterways) in the drainage network across the country, installation of flood telemetry network in the country to gauge all rivers/ nullahs/ streams for a robust river flood forecasting and warning, installation of stationary/ mobile weather radars for flood monitoring, establishment of seven regional flood early warning centres, a comprehensive management of flood waters of hill torrents of Koh-i-Suleiman and Kirthar Range, construction of water storage as well as flood dispersal structures along hill torrents, enhanced flood resilience of major cities and interventions to cope with urban flooding. The PSDP also includes a broader budget line of Normal/ Emergent Flood Programme with an allocation of Rs 750 million.

While the federal government has assumed responsibility for the national level strategic interventions, most of the sectoral investment projects are left to the provinces. The provincial budget of Sindh is heavily tilted towards flood rehabilitation projects in education, irrigation, roads, pumping stations and housing sectors. The chief minister began the formal part of his budget speech by mentioning the flood disaster that had battered the province. He thanked the World Bank, the UNDP and the European Union for helping in conducting post disaster needs assessment. The chief minister also claimed credit for a robust response by quoting numbers to substantiate his claim. Syed Murad Ali Shah especially mentioned five flood rehabilitation projects of $1.69 billion with the World Bank and the securing of $200 million financing from the Asian Development Bank.

The chief minister claimed success in swift repairing of the flood damaged infrastructure through the Sindh Flood Emergency Rehabilitation Project with the World Bank’s assistance. The project has so far plugged 208 breaches and rehabilitated 11 small dams. Under this project, the Sindh government also plans to construct 168 roads (932.85 kilometres) in 19 districts, restore 2,904 water supply and drainage schemes, and provide cash transfers of Rs 17,500 each to 850,000 vulnerable households in flood affected areas. The chief minister mentioned that the Asian Development Bank supported Emergency Flood Assistance Project will improve 805 kilometres of flood/ rain affected roads.

The Sindh Annual Development Plan has a number of flood resilience related projects. These include the agriculture component of Sindh Water and Agriculture Transformation (SWAT) Project (Rs 4,983.5 million); provision of subsidy on agriculture (Rs 100 million); Sindh Irrigated Agriculture Productivity Enhancement Programme Phase-I Project (Rs 984 million); Sindh Flood Emergency Reconstruction Project (Flood 2010-11) for bunds and canals (Rs 235 million); Sindh Resilience Project (Irrigation Component) for strengthening flood embankments and constructing small dams (Rs 10 million); flood emergent works for 2019 - 20 (Rs 200 million); Sindh Flood Emergency Rehabilitation Project (Irrigation Component) (Rs 24,210 million); Flood Protection Sector Project-III (Rs 200 million); Sindh Flood Emergency Rehabilitation Project (Rs 18,730 million); Flood Response Emergency Housing Project (Rs 46,750 million). Under another project Rs 11,777.4 million has been allocated for 50 state-of-the-art resilient schools to be constructed as prefabricated mild steel structures. In his post-budget briefing, the chief minister said that the Works and Services Department had been allocated Rs 140 billion for repairing flood damaged roads. Allocations have been made for repairing flood affected infrastructure in Education (Rs 35 billion), Health (Rs 20 billion) and Public Health Engineering (Rs 22 billion) Departments.

A disappointing fact is the meagre allocation of Rs 5 million for a critically important project, the Extension of the Right Bank Outfall Drain from Sehwan to Sea (RBOD-II). Total estimated cost of the project is Rs 61,985 million, including a Rs 7,000 million share of the Sindh government. The federal PSDP too has not allocated any amount for this project. Early completion of the RBOD is needed for the ecological rehabilitation of Manchhar Lake.

There is a yawning gap between the scale of disaster and the availability of resources. The current trend in resource allocation is likely to continue for several years to rebuild the damaged infrastructure and restore public services.

The writer is a development professional. He can be reached at

Debris, dreams and development