Averting dangers of urban flooding

July 17, 2022

Major cities across the Punjab have lately experienced urban flooding during monsoons. How prepared are authorities for disaster management this year?

Averting dangers of urban flooding


or the past several years, several big cities in the Punjab, especially Lahore, have faced the challenge of urban flooding, which is a result of climate change under which weather patterns of the region are changing.

Another factor in urban flooding/ flash floods in big cities of the Punjab i.e., Lahore, Rawalpindi, Gujranwala, Faisalabad, Multan, Dera Ghazi Khan and Sargodha, is an expansion of unplanned residential localities and a lack of civic amenities, especially drains.

This year, to handle urban flooding and manage storm water during the monsoon season in Lahore, the Punjab Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) and the Water and Sanitation Agency (WASA) finalised its plan putting special emphasis on 26 vulnerable points in the provincial capital historically known for accumulating rainwater during monsoon.

Besides its regular planning, the WASA has started storing storm water. It has started the construction of 12 underground rainwater storage tanks, out of which two (Kashmir Road and Lawrence Road) have become operational. The water stored in these tanks is later used by the Parks and Horticulture Authority (PHA) for gardening purposes and by Rescue 1122 for fire fighting.

Other measures taken by the WASA include establishment of emergency camps on various city roads and 24/7 deployment of field staff at these camps; readiness of its disposal stations; ensuring flow of channels and dewatering operations from low-lying pockets; and the overall monitoring of the situation.

Ghafran Ahmed, the WASA managing director, tells The News on Sunday that urban flooding in Lahore is a new phenomenon. He says it needs new solutions. He says the construction of underground rainwater storage tanks will ease the pressure in the respective areas. He says the approach been appreciated at various forums. Several other cities, he says, are now working along the same lines to handle urban flooding.

President Dr Arif Alvi has also endorsed the replication of rainwater storage and water conservation projects by WASA Lahore in other cities of the country, especially Islamabad and Karachi, which are now frequently witnessing the problems of urban flooding.

In Lahore, the 26 low-lying points that always accumulate rainwater are Bhati Gate, Sheranwala Gate, Eik-Moria Pul, Lakshmi Chowk, GPO, Nabha Road, Firdous Market, Do-Moria Pul, Kashmir Road, Cooper Road, Lytton Road, Chowk Na Khuda, Lawrence Road, Usman Block Garden Town, Link Road (Model Town), Sultan Ahmed Road Ichra, B-Block Tajpura, General Hospital/ Qainchi Stop, Tikka Chowk Johar Town, Empress Road/ Haji Camp, Qurtaba Chowk, Shah Jamal, Lahore Railway Station, Baghechi Seithan GT Road, Multan Road near Lesco Grid and Karim Block Market.

The WASA MD says that emergency camps have been established at all these points and the necessary machinery including de-watering sets has been placed to handle an emergency situation.

De-silting of sewer lines of 5,187 km length and 55.70 km primary drains, which disposed of their water in Ravi River, is also part of the monsoon emergency plan.

WASA officials have been directed to study rainfall data of previous years in their respective jurisdictions so that they can take appropriate measures in case of an emergency, he says. The MD adds that a fully integrated monsoon control room has been established at WASA’s head office.

Meanwhile, the PDMA has started holding meetings with the District Emergency Operation Centres across the Punjab.

The PDMA authorities have directed district offices of the Punjab to remain alert 24 hours a day to deal with any untoward incident. The district officers have been directed to check all drains in their jurisdictions on a daily basis and ensure cleaning of drains.

The PDMA authorities have also directed district officers to secure complete information about districts where there is a risk of urban flooding as well as of villages that are in danger due to floods. The PDMA has also issued advisories to its district officers and has directed them to ensure its implementation. District officers are required to upload daily data on the PDMA portal and to send prompt emergency reports to concerned agencies.

The PDMA has also prepared a district-wise plan to manage emergencies by putting in place requisite mitigation measures and a well-coordinated and integrated response at the district level.

The main objectives include developing a plan of action for the District Disaster Management Authority and other district stakeholders; setting priorities and providing direction for disaster management; defining the roles of various stakeholders in disaster management in all phases; raising awareness among stakeholders about disaster risks and the requirements for disaster management; introducing coordination mechanism for immediate response and rehabilitation at district level; enhancing the effectiveness and timeliness of emergency response through clarification of goals, strategies, roles and responsibilities; and strengthening response coordination between government departments and humanitarian organisations.

As per the PDMA’s disaster management plan, in case of any disaster or calamity the head of the Revenue Department in the district i.e., the DC should take everyone on board and implement the district disaster management plan.

However, there are certain gaps and constraints in the implementation of flood emergency plans in every district. These include low-morale water rescue staff, communication gaps between departments and unavailability of proper logistics for the transportation of staff, boats and other rescue equipment to the disaster-hit areas.
Running extensive awareness programmes and media campaigns to sensitise the general public about urban flooding and precautions is equally important during times of potential distress resulting from natural disasters. In Lahore, the district administration, the PDMA and the allied departments do not appear interested in the idea.

The writer is a reporter for   The News in Lahore

Averting dangers of urban flooding