Loss of human lives from floods is not an act of nature | By Farrukh Saleem

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Direct damage and indirect losses could top $15 billion

Excessive rain is an act of nature. Flooding as a consequence of excessive rain is also an act of nature. But loss of human lives as a consequence of flooding is most certainly not an act of nature.

Loss of human lives as a consequence of flooding is purely human error. Here’s why: science tells where it is going to rain. Science also tells us how much rain a particular is going to get.

Science has a Flood Vulnerability Index that assesses “flood vulnerability based on river basin, sub-catchment and urban area scales by categorizing different components that affect the susceptibility of the people who live in flood prone areas.”

In Pakistan, loss of human lives as a consequence of flooding is because of three factors: government incompetence, corruption and poverty.

Question: Why does the government let Pakistanis live in areas where they could die in case of flooding? Answer: Government incompetence and corruption.

As a consequence of country-wide flooding and destruction in July 2010, a ‘National Flood Protection Plan-IV was to be implemented from 2015 to 2025 and a National Disaster Management Plan was to be implemented between 2012 and 2022. Nothing much was done.

A comprehensive ‘Early Warning System’ was to be put in place. Nothing much was done. A ‘National and Sub-national Emergency Response System’ was to be put in place. Nothing much was done. Hazard specific contingency plans were to be put in place. Nothing much was done.

Yes, poverty also pushes Pakistanis to live in areas with an extremely high vulnerability index. And the resulting loss of human lives.

‘Damage, loss and needs assessment’ from flooding requires a methodology that uses “objective, quantitative information on the value of destroyed assets and production losses to estimate, first, government interventions for the short term and second, post-disaster financing needs.” In 2010, direct damages, indirect losses and losses in the agriculture sector were estimated at $6.4 billion, $3.5 billion and $5 billion, respectively.

In 2022 floods, based on 33 million Pakistanis (1 out of 7), 118 districts affected and high economic activity areas affected, my rough, preliminary estimate for direct damages, indirect losses and losses in the agriculture sector could be as high as $8 billion, $4 billion and $3 billion, respectively.

In my estimate, reconstruction costs could go up as high as $15 billion. The most affected province is Sindh followed by Punjab, Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. As per preliminary reports, ‘80 percent of all houses partially or fully destroyed are in Sindh and the majority of all crops destroyed are in Sindh’.

In 2010, the National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA) produced a report titled ‘Learning from Experience’.

The report made four conclusions: the disaster management capacity of the state emerged as an element requiring immediate focus; there was a significant paucity of resources in comparison to the monumental caseload; lack of capacity at the district level for provision of relief and an absolute lack of coordination.

No one really paid much attention to the report. In 2022, we are back to square one; no lessons learnt.

Post-flood economy means lower exports of rice and textiles. Post-flood economy means higher imports of cotton, wheat and sugar. Wheat sowing is going to get delayed.

Budget deficit will be higher. And we shouldn’t expect too much from the outside world as Western donors right now are focused on Ukraine.

 

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