Almost the entire country is in the grip of intermittent spells of rains. Chitral was the first target of unprecedented rains and flash floods that were mainly caused by a dangerous climate or environmental change.
The damage in mountainous terrains and valleys of northern areas was massive: a very large number of bridges and roads connecting various valleys were swept away. The damage inflicted on the houses of residents was also colossal in addition to loss of precious human lives.
The monsoon phenomenon is playing out on the plains of southern Punjab and Sindh in full fury where standing crops spreading over thousands of acres of land are under deep water.
Economic estimates in terms of agriculture output and the livestock numbers, the mainstay of the country’s economy, will be surely subject to a downward revision once the floods are over.
Trains are running behind schedules while the inter-provincial and inter-city communication through various modes of transportation is also under tremendous strain.
In Sindh in particular, urban centres such as Hyderabad and Sukkur present a picture of flooded towns. Even in Tharparkar, a terribly water-deficient district of the province which literally begs for rains every year, the situation is quite different: local administration of this desert district has appealed to the authorities to send boats to rescue people stranded in low-lying areas of Mithi, the district headquarter.
The authorities, including NDMA and its provincial chapters, appear to be ill-prepared to cope with the challenge in an effective and meaningful manner, although PDMA/Sindh government has claimed that relief camps, mobile rescue teams, boats, tents, de-watering pumps, medical camps and mobile medical units have been set up in all districts of Hyderabad division, ie, Hyderabad, Dadu, Matiari, Tando Mohammad Khan, Jamshoro, Badin, Tando Allahyar and Sujawal.
The arrangements made by it are surely too little if not too late. The situation, however, does not brook any bickering among rescue and relief agencies. The local administrations are required to work in close liaison with Army, Navy and PDMA. It is being claimed through government handouts that PDMA and Sindh Irrigation and Drainage Authority are providing heavy machinery and technical expertise as well as food packs, drinking water, medicines, life jackets, emergency lights, generators, gas cylinders and other relief goods in sufficient quantities to the flood/rain-affected people but human misery is quite pronounced in various areas.
A rising Indus is giving birth to legitimate fears about the arrival of ‘super flood’, which may lead to breach of embankments at various places, displacing populations. Non-completion of work on the strengthening of Shank Bund in Ghotki is a strong case in point.
The Sindh government has claimed that the work on the spars of this embankment was the responsibility of OGDCL which failed to do its job. The Chief Minister, Qaim Ali Shah, has himself declared that it was neither Sindh government nor OGDCL; it was in fact Pakistan Army that helped save this important embankment and the areas surrounding it after he made a desperate phone call to them. Should his admission, therefore, serve as an alarm bell for people living alongside Indus and beyond?