Islamabad, Monday, September 06, 2010
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Mystery shrouds recent floods across the country

— Record-breaking rains in Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab
— Silting in riverbed caused super floods
— Who is responsible for criminal negligence?
— Breaches caused by influential landlords doubled miseries

By Ziaullah Mirza

LAHORE—Mystery still shrouds whether current unprecedented wave of floods causing untold miseries to the people are a natural calamity or Allah Almighty’s curse for our sins. Could it be negligence on part of the federal and provincial governments, is a question being raised in different segments of our society?
Monsoon rains are a phenomenon during the month of July and August. Floods are not new to Pakistani people. Some parts of the country’s north receive heavy rainfall during this season. But what was different this year is a query in average Pakistani peoples’ mind. Heavy floods caused devastation inundating standing crops, rural inhabitations in 1950 killing human toll of 2910 and 1992 claiming 1834 lives. But this time, the havoc that floods have caused has no parallel in our history.
Ban Ki Moon, the Secretary General of the United Nations very rightly termed the recent floods in Pakistan as ‘largest’ in the living history of mankind. It was in this background that he called upon the world community to come forward and assist Pakistan come out of these miserable conditions spreading over two third areas of Pakistan.
A deep look into the facts would reveal sensational ground realities and also throw light on where the authorities have failed to take timely actions or allowed influential people to carry out illegal and unauthorized operations including causing breaches in the banks of rivers and canals.
There is hardly any doubt that this year record-breaking rainfall was received in some parts of the country including Risalpur (415mm), Cherat (372mm), Peshawar (333mm), Mianwali (271mm) and in Kohat (262). In addition to this heavy rainfall of more than 200mm (7.9 inches) from July 27 to July 30) was recorded during the four-day wet spell in Pukhtoonkhaw and Punjab.
A report broadcast by BBC Urdu Service says that in the last week of July, in the catchment areas of River Kabul in Afghanistan and River Swat in Pakistan unprecedented rainfall was recorded by the Met Office. In 2005, in River Kabul near Nowshehra maximum level of flood water was 1,70,000 cusecs while during the last week of July 2010, water flow in this river was 5,26,000 cusecs that led to inundation of Charsada, Nowshehra and adjoining areas.
At the same time, heavy rainfall in Northern Areas raised water level in seasonal nullahs causing heavy floods in River Indus. Later when River Swat and river Kabul fell in Indus, this led to mightiest floods and entered Punjab. This comprehensively devastated areas from Kalabagh to Muzaffargarh.

What made lives of people from Taunsa to Rajanpur and upto Thataa is the fact that seasonal nullahs of Kaba Sultan, Chhechharr, Wadoor, Surilund, Sakhi Sarwar, Vovah, Sungarr and Kuarra added two and a half lakh cusecs of water into River Indus.
It may be added that these devastations were by three western rivers including Sawat, Kabul and Indus. Had the floods in River Chenab and Jhelum been added, the devastation would have increased manifolds. In 1973, when flood water of River Jhelum and Chenab merged into River Indus at Punjnad, they added 825,000 cusecs, said an official of the Met office. As compared to this, in the recent Monsoon season, Chenab and Jhelum added only 311,000 cusecs.
There has been a long list of human failure and official negligence, the responsibility of which is yet to be fixed. Millions of rupees are allocated in the federal and provincial budgets for strengthening of river embankments, yet, no one know where these funds are spent. Thousands of trees across the river banks are cut every year either by the forest departments or by influential people of the area leaving these embankments to given in during the flood season.
Another factor is massive encroachment in the river bed areas that cause hurdle in the free flow of water. Similarly accumulation of the silt in the country’s main rivers force the flood water overflows their banks. Experts say that every year two to three inches silt is added every year. They say that during the past 34 year, river bed of Indus has risen by three feet reducing the capacity of water flow. This, according these experts simply means that if the river could sustain a flood water up to 10,00,000 cusecs, after silting its capacity has been reduced to 7,00,000 cusecs.
Citing examples, these experts further argue that in 1942, flood water to the range of 917,000 passed Kalabagh areas without causing any damage. But in July 2010, less than 9.00,000 cusecs water inundated the entire region. Similarly, Guddu Barrage’s capacity is 1200,000 cusecs and in 1976 over 1176,000 cusecs flood crossed safely. As compared to this, 1149,00 crossed at Guddu causing historic damage to adjoining areas during July this year. Kotri Barrage’s capacity is 835,000 cusecs while in 1956, flood water to the tune of 981,000 crossed safely. In 2010 July 958,000 cusecs flood water played havoc.
In 1950, flooding killed 2,910 people. In 1992, flooding during Monsoon season killed 1,834 people across the country. In 1993, Monsoon rains causes floods which killed 3,084 people. In 1977, On 1st July heavy rains and flooding in Karachi, killed 248 people, according to Pakistan meteorological department 207 millimetres (8.1 in) of rain fell in 24 hours. In 2003, Sindh province was badly affected due to monsoon rains causing damages in billions, killed 178 people. In 2007, Cyclone Yemyin submerged lower part of Balochistan Province in sea water killing 380 people. Before that it killed 213 people in Karachi on its way to Balochistan.
2010 Mid-July till Mid-August - Pakistan's four provinces (Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Southern Punjab and Sindh) were badly affected during the monsoon rains when dams, rivers and lakes overflowed killing at least 1600 people and affecting 14 million people. The flood is considered as worst in Pakistan's history affecting people of all four provinces and Azad Kashmir region of Pakistan.

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