I was up in the lush greens of Nathia Gali undergoing a management course when rains started after weeks of scorching heat in Pakistan. Initially an enjoyable and much awaited gift of nature, I celebrated with friends and colleagues over tea and steaming pakoras. Little did I know that within the next few hours, it would transform into a dangerous and deadly monster, having no mercy for anyone. I stayed awake all night distracted by the sound of rain drops hitting against the steel sheets of the newly built roof. The next morning, newspapers and TV channels screamed about the massive floods hitting all major parts of the country causing deaths and destruction, keeping us glued to the common television screen in the hotel.
Pakistan has been hit by floods in the past but this year all records were broken as heavy rainfalls of about 12 inches continued for a span of three days, virtually holding life hostage in Pakistan. People’s homes, lives and livelihoods were washed away in a matter few of hours. According to the UN estimates, some 1, 40,000 people lost homes, 1700 their lives and about 3 million of them from all age groups got directly and adversely affected. Floods do not have a gender bias either; they take a similar toll on girls and boys, women and men alike. Suddenly, a whole generation of Pakistanis seems to have dis-appeared, who could have seen and defined its tomorrow. Floods particularly struck hard on the newly named Khyber Pakhtunkhwa the war ridden Province which has already lost way too much by being under military operations for over a year. The domestic military vs. Taliban battle had left nearly more than 2 million people displaced last year. Since then there has been no substantative rebuilding of the destroyed infrastructure and life had not returned to a normal course. People seem to be living from one crisis to the other. As of yesterday 1800 people were evacuated from villages of Sindh, many have gone missing or being feared dead. Situation in Punjab, Balochistan and Jammu Kashmir is equally daunting and dreadful. Endemic particularly water borne diseases like cholera are widespread posing ugly threats to people’s health and state of well-being. Some 50,000 military troops have been called to help but cannot do much beyond evacuation and immediate relief. International community has offered some assistance for the flood victims which considering the magnitude of the disaster is mere peanuts. The Government and the national disaster management body is ineptly, call it indifferently pursuing a damage control in a situation which deserves to be dealt with on an emergence footing. Human beings are at risk of losing their lives. Natural calamities as proven time and again can and do ruthlessly snatch the entire package of survival. Women and children are still out there in the open, awaiting assistance to build back themselves and their lives. The damage to irrigation canals has also been huge and has not only led to a loss of this year’s crops but it is feared that the crops growing ability for the next year has also been seriously hampered.
However, the reality as ironic and maddening as it may sound is that this loss could have been prevented! 1500 human beings did not deserve to die giving up to mere water waves, destruction of people’s homes and livelihoods could have been avoided. When will we invest in building our roads and bridges (of decent quality) the very bare minimum infrastructure, for both urban and rural settings? The destructive face and force of water is not a new phenomenon for Pakistanis. The country has a moon soon season every year, of course varying degrees of rainfalls but this time of the year just has to come as a feature of nature’s seasonality. Why does the Government have this knee jerk reaction every time there is heavy rain and people are left vulnerable and disowned? At least the national water policy has to be separated from the perils of real politic and an objective and need based approach towards building water reservoirs is needed so that all these absolutely preventable damages are actually prevented. Can’t resist without quoting a comrade ‘failing to plan is planning to fail’.