Winter is here

Government-sponsored rehabilitation of flood-affected people requires time. For many, winter spells yet another problem

Winter is here

“The flood has destroyed our ten-room house. Before winters arrive, we want to re-build at least one room. For that we need to get the government rehabilitation package on time,” says Saif-ur Rehman from Tank, one of the most affected districts following the devastating floods earlier this year.

In Tank, a large number of people are living in large mud houses. Saif belongs to a Seraiki community. Before the floods, he had been living in a joint family of 25. They had a six kanal mud house. The house has been destroyed by the flood. They are currently sheltering at a nearby girls’ community school.

Saif, his father and brothers are keen to re-construct at least some of the rooms and the boundary wall but lack the resources. As winter approaches, they are worried. They are looking to the provincial government for the compensation package it has announced for flood-hit areas. Saif says that in the Ranwal village, the flood has destroyed more than 40 mud houses. For the last 30 days, life has been miserable. Some of the villagers have started re-building their houses but the majority don’t have the money this requires.

According to the Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) data, 674,318 people have been displaced due to the floods. 53,569 family tents have been distributed in the flood-hit areas. To pay compensation for the damaged houses, the government started an assessment survey on September 15. Once the survey is completed, the PDMA will release the compensation amount through the Bank of Khyber. “Rs 400,000 will be paid for houses that have been destroyed altogether and Rs 160,000 for partially damaged houses,” says Sharif Hussain, the PDMA director general.

Initially, it was believed that the survey would be completed by the first week of October. However, it is now expected to be completed in November.

Thirty-two-year-old Habib Ullah is from Tank. His two-room mud house washed away in the floods. Some relatives have accommodated his family. “My family of eight is currently living in a single room. I’m working at a brick-making factory. We are unable to re-construct our home on our own,” Habib Ullah says. “When the survey team came to our village for damage assessment, I was at work,” he says. He says his house was not listed due to his absence and for lack of documents required for registration with the survey team.

Muaz Arain Seraiki, 32, from the Seraiki Qaumi Tehreek (SQT) Tank chapter, is distributing small amounts to help flood-affected families start re-construction work. He has purchased bricks and other building material and is helping the affected people find masons. “Some people have started reconstruction. However, it is very hard these days to find a mason in Tank,” says Muaz.

Disappointed in the district administration, Habib Ullah plans to reconstruct his home on his own. The SQT has donated a girder. The owner of the brick factory where he works has promised to provide him bricks and adjust the price from his wages. “I will reconstruct a room for my family before the winter sets in. A plastic sheet will have to do for the boundary wall for now,” says Habib.

In Kohistan, areas where the flood has damaged bridges remain isolated. Those whose homes have been destroyed in the recent floods have been moved to Shangla, Dasu and Swat. “Winter is already here. Living without proper shelter is impossible. 90 percent of flood-affected people have been moved to lower districts where they are living in rented quarters,” says Hassan, a man from Lower Kohistan.

Saeed-ur Rehman is from Seo’s village council in the Dasu sub division of Upper Kohistan. Winter has already arrived in the area. A majority of the flood-affected families have been shifted to Dasu, where they have been accommodated mostly by relatives. A few families are living in rented houses.

Meanwhile, the government is facing a financial crisis. On Tuesday, a special cabinet meeting was called to discuss the compensation for the flood-hit areas. Finance Minister Taimur Khan Jhagra alleged in a press conference that the federal government was creating financial problems for the province. “On August 31, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif announced a ten-billion-rupee package for the flood-hit areas of the KP. But it has been a month and a half and we have yet to receive funds from the federal government.”

Last week, former prime minister Imran Khan distributed 100 cheques from the KP Chief Minister’s Flood Relief Fund among affected families from Dera Ismail Khan and Tank districts.

Chief Secretary Dr Shahzad Khan Bangash visited DI Khan last week and received a briefing on flood damage and relief operations in the district. He also reviewed progress on the survey of the damaged houses in DI Khan and Tank districts.

The writer is a multimedia journalist. He tweets @daudpasaney

Winter is here