In floods, a lesson to learn? | Pakistan Today

In floods, a lesson to learn?

Lack of planning and management has increased the damage

 

 

As the raging floods continue on their path to destruction, hundreds of thousands of people have been left vulnerable once again in the face of yet another natural disaster. While hundreds of lives have already been lost, and huge damages to the property and assets of people accrued, the current picture provides only a hint of the overall damage that will be recorded. Floods, in Pakistan, have almost become a trend now, seasonally occurring almost every year in the wake of monsoon rains. The most recent major recent flooding occurred in 2010, which affected millions of people across around one-fifth of Pakistan’s total landmass. Then the floods of 2011 and 2012, which were also a result of monsoon rains, caused considerable damage to lives of people and the national economy that we are still recovering from. Currently, the ongoing floods have caused a state of national emergency and the scale of its damage keeps increasing every day.

Little is humanly possible to do about controlling natural catastrophes like floods, but the extent of damage that may follow them can certainly be limited. Although Pakistan and its surrounding region is prone to severe effects of climate changes, too little has been done at an administrative level to cope with any potential catastrophes.

In 2010 floods, Chief Minister Punjab Shahbaz Sharif was seen standing in knee-deep water wearing his wellington boots. Four years later, similar sights are now being seen in the national media as the floods continue to ensue havoc. When all hell has already broken loose, chief minister’s or prime minister’s visits to the affected areas serve as little more than providing a photograph opportunity to add to the feel-good factor of the worthy rulers.

Little is humanly possible to do about controlling natural catastrophes like floods, but the extent of damage that may follow them can certainly be limited.

However, what keeps missing from the outlook of the current and previous governments is a concept essential to any form of successful administration: the concept of planning and management. It is the absence of this very concept from the ‘philosophy of governance’ in Pakistan that has led to significant national losses time and again.

Recently, a top level representative of the metrological department said in a television interview that the warning for flood was issued beforehand but the government failed to take any preventative measure on time.

“It was clearly negligence on the government’s part”, said Hassan Askari Rizi, a senior analyst. Talking to Pakistan Today, Rizvi said that “the government did not take the warnings seriously until the flood waters began to hit the areas of Punjab”. It was once again a sluggish approach of the government centred on the agenda of damage control rather than prevention that has increased the potential damage caused by the flood.

Government’s negligence is not only limited to the current episode. Its lack of seriousness in the realm of planning and management is quite notable. While depleting power resources and the never-ending power crisis remain serious issues, the prime minister has the all-important ministry of water and power bestowed upon Khawaja Asif who is also serving as the federal minister for defence. As much as the prime minister believes in Khawaja Asif’s abilities to be extensive enough to manage two entirely different portfolios, there is a human limit to which he could do that. These floods have come at a time when the armed forces are busy defending the country in a military operation. Having the huge task of overlooking both these significant events simultaneously is obviously next to impossible for the minister. This is another feature of the negligence of the government.

Rizvi also went on to criticise the relief effort that is being carried out by the government.

Recently, a top level representative of the metrological department said in a television interview that the warning for flood was issued beforehand but the government failed to take any preventative measure on time.

“The whole bureaucracy seems busy receiving the chief minister wherever he goes rather than focusing on the relief work”, he said. With the water now hitting vast areas of northern Punjab, the government is facing an even more uphill task. However, its current relief efforts seem inadequate and misdirected. Rather than extending and pacing up the relief work, many of the prominent representatives of government seem to be using this disaster to defuse the political crisis ongoing in Islamabad.

The floods have not highlighted the lack of proper management in the rural areas only. The rain last week also left a considerable portion of Lahore inundated. While billions of rupees from the exchequer have been spent, or misspent as many argue, on the much advertised development projects, the drainage system still remains in miserable condition even in a city like Lahore. The infrastructural development inspired by proper planning can reduce the scale of destruction caused by natural disasters like floods.

Any damage control or relief activity undertaken after another catastrophe has occurred will only have a very limited impact. What our rulers need to realise is the fact that once the heavens have poured down, their wellington boots can certainly not do the trick.



2 Comments

  1. ishrat salim said:

    Has any one looked at these emerging flooding only during :" democratic rule " ? still it has not opened the eyes of those gangsters & their supporters. Because, they come through rigged elections & hollow slogans only to fool these poor people, who are the ultimate sufferer…these gangsters are not aware that they would be the final answerer to Allah swt…

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