The government should implement early recovery and rehabilitation projects in flood-hit areas
he flood water is gradually receding from all areas of Sindh. Due to its flat topography, gravity flows are sluggish in Sindh. According to a report of the UN Satellite Centre (UNOSAT), floodwaters had receded from 32,800 square-miles to 23,200 square-miles in the first week of September. However, in Sindh where 14.6 million flood-affected individuals reside, water had drained from 815 square-miles.
Nonetheless, it is expected that within two to three weeks, the flood affected will return to their abodes. After taking a lot of flak on performance during rescue and relief, the Sindh government ought to work hard in the early recovery and rehabilitation phase.
As soon as life returns to normal, a comprehensive damage assessment should be carried out to quantify actual needs to rehabilitate families, restore their means of livelihoods and reinvigorate local markets. Urgent critical needs include immediate drainage of flood water, repair of damaged road network, the payment of compensation to the affected and financial assistance for farmers.
Since agriculture is the major source of livelihood in the flood-affected areas of Sindh, removing water and restoring farms is an urgent need for sowing the Rabi crops, mainly wheat, to avert a food crisis as an aftershock of the flood. The staple grain has already become very expensive and a large number of families are compromising on their diet. Since flood has damaged all assets of the farmers, they will have to rebuild their lives. The government should provide interest-free loans along with subsidised seed, fertiliser and machinery, especially to small farmers. The Agriculture Development Bank and the Sindh Bank should be asked to launch a speedy interest-free credit line for the areas battered by floods.
Equally urgent attention is required to repair the damaged infrastructure including link roads, bridges, culverts, water channels, telephone and electricity systems and marketplaces. The conventional supply chain needs smooth access to towns and villages. Goods transport has become a nightmare due to the damaged roads, excessive demand and spiralling petroleum prices. Consequently, prices of all essential supplies have skyrocketed. Agriculture and Livestock Departments should make arrangements for providing subsidised farm-inputs by involving private sector at district headquarters.
As soon as life is back to normal, a comprehensive damage assessment should be carried out to quantify actual needs to rehabilitate families, restore their means of livelihoods and reinvigorate local markets.
The government should establish complaint management cells to protect farmers from unscrupulous suppliers and agents. This will only be possible if competent and credible civil servants are assigned these roles. Unfortunately, posting of bureaucrats in Sindh is often politicised. Handpicked officers are appointed at the whims of influential people.
Apathy was alleged during rescue and relief operations. For instance, it was alleged that the decisions on applying relief cuts to save certain areas and inundate others were controlled by certain powerful people and not by technocrats and professionals. Relief supplies were also found in warehouses of influential people in some areas.
In the early recovery stage, people will invariably recreate their rickety shelters with whatever material they can find. Long-term rehabilitation should be planned under a climate resilient development framework, considering the fact that Sindh is prone to riverine and torrential floods.
Sindh needs a whole paradigm shift in development planning, infrastructure design and maintenance of vital public services. Weather is likely to be unpredictable in the future as well. The development model in vogue has proved unable to withstand weather shocks. After the 2005 earthquake, innovative construction models were introduced with simple designs based on locally available material. Local masons were trained to adopt new construction models to make structures less vulnerable to tremors. Models for resilient building construction in floodplains are similarly available. From housing to public infrastructure and urban services, the development planning ought to be rejigged. A new development approach has to be adopted to avert similar problems in future.
The major transformation requires a visionary leadership willing to shun stereotypes, undertake innovate thinking and take some audacious decisions. Rural settlements, urban neighbourhoods, the communication web, public utilities; all have to be aligned with the concept of climate resilient development. It is easier said than done and will be a daunting undertaking especially when political leadership, administrative machinery and the social fabric are largely averse to change and reluctant to abandon their comfort zones.
The writer is a development sector professional, email@example.com