Over the last three years, more than 4,000 people have lost their lives and millions have been displaced by the severe flooding which has hit Pakistan each monsoon season. According to the Economic Survey of Pakistan 2011–2012, the damage inflicted has cost the country more than 16 million dollars.
Yet despite past events, foreign aid workers are warning that Pakistan is no better prepared for what will happen this year. Indeed, fears are growing because north-eastern regions of Pakistan have already experienced high rainfall and local authorities are warning that rivers and reservoirs are now close to their maximum volume or overflowing.
Tributaries of the Indus River – the Chenab, Jhelum, Ravi, Beas and Sutlej – have already burst their banks and left a trail of devastation in parts of the country. As of August 21st, the National Disaster Management has recorded the deaths of 118 people so far, with more than 800 injured by flash floods which have affected around 1,700 villages. Crops such as rice, cotton, sugarcane and maize have been destroyed across an estimated 325,000 acres of land, which is likely to mean a rise in food insecurity in already vulnerable districts.
Rain this year is likely to be catastrophic
Speaking to the Thomson Reuters Foundation and with his comments reported by the IRIN news agency, a Flood Commission Chairman acknowledged that rivers and reservoirs were already “brimming” and that the intense rain expected at the end of August and in the first week of September was “likely to be catastrophic”.
Disaster management authorities have been urged to take all possible measures to relocate families to safe places and also to provide food, medicines and water for emergency distribution. However, one flood relief expert who has been travelling around Pakistan has warned that aid operations in Punjab, Sindh [link to ‘Situation for children in Sindh province of Pakistan’] and Balochistan have not been “substantial”.
The flood relief expert, who has worked with international aid agencies on relief and rehabilitation programmes over the last three years, said that in Punjab nine in ten people affected by this year’s first floods had not received any assistance and had had to relocate their families independently. And with a general absence of emergency relief supplies, he warned of the “despondency” among flood victims. Meanwhile, the Federal Minister for Planning and Development has made an urgent request for relief aid, but so far funds have yet to be released by the government’s finance ministry.