, , , ,

Flooding in Pakistan Highlights Need for Stronger Relief

Flooding in Pakistan for the fourth consecutive year has put the spotlight on fledgling programs meant to improve infrastructure and humanitarian aid policies. A combination of monsoon rains and melted glacier water convened, causing rivers to overflow into towns, bringing massive destruction in Punjab, Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces as well as Baluchistan and Giljit Baltistan. In the Chitral district, water washed away more than 28 villages, leaving the area completely inaccessible by car and depleted of food, drinking water and communication technology.

More than 500,000 people have been affected and experts report the accelerated spread of disease in affected areas. This is the fourth consecutive year that the country has seen such conditions; in 2010, 20% of the country was underwater and 20 million people were displaced. Though this year’s floodwaters do not pose such grave dangers, Pakistani activists and politicians have been calling for political reform and funding to help lessen the impact of seemingly inevitable annual flooding.

In 2013, the Pakistani government adapted the National Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) policy, which increased funding for disaster management to $1.6 million. The DRR policy plans to strengthen institutions that will work solely to tackle challenges posed by natural disasters and better prepare the country for such occurrences. The policy plans on passing new laws, including those related to fire safety, industrial hazards, construction, land use and building codes. It plans on expanding its Emergency Rescue Service, reviving civilian humanitarian organizations, and partnering with NGOs and local organizations to support disaster-prone areas of the country. The policy will also help pass on information to communities on more resilient innovations in home construction techniques, water and sanitation systems and alternative sources of electricity.

However, critics say the government isn’t working fast enough. The country’s water management system, for example, will continue to be overwhelmed by extreme amounts of water until the system is completely overhauled. A more proactive stance, critics say, that prevents the effects of flooding before they occur, is crucial. Rolling out programs such as the National Disaster Risk Reduction policy will help build stronger, better-informed communities that will cooperate with local organizations to improve technology and design. Doing so will create more sustainable regions that can both use their resources more efficiently and withstand the threat of natural disasters, a seemingly inevitable fact of life these days.

– Jenna Wheeler

Sources: Irin News, Prevention Web
Photo: Flickr