Poor response worsens Pakistan flood crises

September 14th, 2011

Published on Al Jazeera, by Kamal Hyder, Sept. 13, 2011.

It pours and pours. There has been no let-up in the torrents across the Badin district – a land that receives less than 60 mm of rain in a year has now seen over 300 mm in just of 48 hours. But it was a crisis already in the making because of record rains in the country’s southern province of Sind which received an incredible 1,000 mm of rain in less than three weeks and the deluge still continues pounding several districts in the area.  

The problem has been exacerbated because the Left Bank Overflow Drain or LBOD has not been working at its optimum. The drain, with a usual capacity to withstand up to 6,000 cusecs of water flow, and sends overflow to the Arabian Sea has been the victim of poor planning and design as well as excessive government corruption has had its capability reduced to around 4,000 cusecs.

Since Badin and many parts of Sind are prone to waterlogging, the land was not able to absorb the excessive rainfall and as such put a severe strain on the LOBD canal and caused major breaches in the poorly maintained embankments.

The other factor that complicated the situation was the drought-like conditions experienced in July; leading the government to flood its canals to help overcome the dry spell. The canals were in full flow when the unexpected wet spell struck – the worst in over 300 hundred years of recorded history

According to many locals the it is the worst flood they have seen in living memory. As we arrived in Badin the situation was already at crisis point and tens of thousands were on the move as the raging waters destroyed over 9,000 villages and destroyed over 2.5 million bales of cotton just weeks before the harvest. But the real worry was the fact that large towns were cut-off by the flood.

Faulty foresight: … //

… Be grateful:

Pakistan’s prime minister, Yusuf Raza Gilani congratulated his provincial and federal teams on doing a splendid job but on the ground they did nothing at all and if they did try to fool the world – then they failed. As my team and I left Badin, we stopped at a roadside school now a makeshift camp for those running away from the flood. The school was under several feet of dark brown water. Our fixer asked the man appointed as the head of relief camp about the toilet facilities; he said the people could relieve themselves in the water!

A father holding his child asked me to have a look inside. For a moment I thought why am I doing this but when I looked into the eyes of the children and saw their innocent smiles I followed the children and their dad into waist-high muck to see the fetid conditions they were living under.

The stench of sewage and human waste was unbearable.

The proud family of 8 children and their parents spent their nights in a room full of the dirty water. They told me to tell the world what they were going through. There were hundreds more in the same compound including pregnant women and sick children. As I walked back through the filth I saw a government-appointed caretaker sitting on a chair outside the compound in spotless light blue clothes, while the women sat on the ground.

He told me they have a roof over their heads and shouldn’t be complaining and I turned around to tell him “I would not even put my dog in such a place!” (full text).

Links:

Disparity fuels ethnic tensions in China: Minorities, such as the Uighurs in Xinjiang, feel they are not seeing the benefits of country’s economic growth, on Al Jazeera, Sept. 14, 2011;

Surprising Europe, Running out of luck: Life as a migrant can be tough, but how do you survive in Europe without papers? on Al Jazeera, Sept. 13, 2011.

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