From infrastructural damage to loss of lives and livelihoods, Balochistan has been hit hard by rains
he monsoon rainfalls are once again wreaking havoc in Balochistan. The scale of devastation is not the same as it was last year. Still, cloudbursts and the resulting flash floods are causing loss of lives and damage to property in various parts of the province. Last Monday alone, six people were killed in rain-related incidents. The devastation is such that the provincial disaster management authority (PDMA) has declared an emergency in flood-hit areas of Balochistan.
Last year’s devastating floods raised questions about the performance of the government on several levels. It was expected that the government would prepare for the worst-case scenario this year and ensure that adequate preparations were made. However, this did not prove to be the case and the already impoverished people were left at the mercy of monsoon rains.
Apart from the loss of lives, the rainfall has affected the livelihood of the people of Balochistan in many ways.
First, the rainfall has further damaged the infrastructure in Balochistan – already in a dilapidated condition. The biggest victim of this rainfall in terms of infrastructural loss has been the Pinjra Bridge in Bolan. After the rains, the flood water started flowing over the makeshift bridge over the Bolan River. As a result, all traffic from Quetta to Sindh and the Punjab has been suspended. It is pertinent to mention that the Pinjra Bridge was destroyed by floods in August last year. It has not been restored yet. This speaks volumes about the priorities of the provincial and federal governments.
The rainfall has also resulted in the closure of highways at Fort Munro, connecting Balochistan with the Punjab; and at Dera Ismail Khan, connecting Balochistan with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Islamabad. Eight bridges on the Quetta-Karachi Highway, damaged in last year’s flood have not been restored to full function. Following the recent rains, those have once again been closed for traffic.
This disruption of road traffic has stopped the movement of people and goods. Consequently, people cannot go to work and hence, cannot make a living. Likewise, people who make a living by selling various types of goods brought from other parts of the country are also facing problems.
Second, daily wagers have been affected by the rains. These include people who work as loaders at different goods markets or sell fruits and vegetables on small carts. The massive rainfall has left them unable to make a living. These people live hand to mouth. Not being able to work for even a single day means that, given the absence of a social security network, they have to sleep without any food.
Third, rainfall has caused a disruption in the electricity supply network. Last year, Quetta remained without electricity for many days and all sorts of communication systems stopped operating due to lack of power. This year, once again, the rains have suspended electricity supply in Sibi, Naseerabad and eastern Balochistan. The lack of power disrupts almost all daily life activities, especially for people who need electricity for their professional work. These include tailors, welders and text composers. They make a small amount of money per day and a lack of electricity means they also have to lose their livelihoods till it is restored.
Another way rainfalls have affected livelihoods is the loss of livestock. Rainfall and flash floods have swept across Bolan and Nasirabad divisions and as far as Kharan, near the Iranian border. Many people in these areas generate an earning through livestock. They make a living by selling these on an annual basis. Now that rains have killed some of their livestock, they stand to lose a significant part of their livelihood. It will take a lot of time for these people to recover from these losses, financially.
Due to climate change and irregular weather patterns, it has become difficult to predict the extent of damage that might be caused by rainfall in a given year. It is also not possible for a government to stop rainfall or flash floods. What can be done, however, is to ensure that there is a high level of disaster preparedness so that loss of lives and livelihoods can be kept to a minimum. This can be done with better planning and political resolve. At the same time, the government needs to develop a social security net, above and beyond the existing networks, to efficiently help people who lose their livelihoods due to natural calamities such as rainfall.
The author is a contributing writer for Nikkei Asia based in Islamabad. He tweets at @iAdnanAamir