Punjab (and Kashmir) under water
again Pakistan has fallen victim to the elements, and dozens
have died in rain-related incidents over the last couple of
Punjab and Azad Jammu and
Kashmir have in parts been lashed by rain continuously for
almost two days and the meteorological department has
cautioned that more is to follow.
This particular storm
system has been forecast as lasting till at least tomorrow.
The casualty list is
expected to rise as a consequence. Once again, as in
previous monsoon-related disasters the army has been called
by the civil administration which is once again overwhelmed
by the magnitude of the flooding and destruction.
Crops and livestock, housing
and infrastructure such as roads and bridges have all been
The army has asked people to vacate their homes particularly
in areas where house construction is poor or very simple and
where the risk of roof collapse is highest. Roof collapses
have accounted for the majority of deaths thus far.
Lahore has been particularly badly hit, with the Metro bus
services being suspended because the roads are flooded. It
is reported that the majority of underpasses in the city are
flooded and the canal is bursting at the seams.
Beneath this there lies a
story — and it is one of failure yet again on the part of
the city and provincial administration.
In the recent past the city
Water and Sanitation Agency (Wasa) and the Lahore
Development Authority have written in detail to the office
of the chief executive of the province requesting funding
for the rehabilitation and expansion of the city sanitation
system as well as upgrading the underground drainage system.
But to no avail, and schemes such as the Metro bus project —
which was completed in just 11 months — were pushed ahead at
the expense of properly maintaining the essential water and
waste management infrastructure, which is not as attractive
vote-wise as is the Metro bus system.
A high-level team was sent to
Istanbul last year to see what lessons could be learned from
the Istanbul water and sanitation system. Experts from
Turkey reciprocated and came to Lahore.
Wasa sent detailed maps, data
and drawings to its Turkish counterparts making suggestions
as to how to improve the system.
A range of recommendations emerged from this consultative
process which included the construction of new nullahs, the
separation of sewage and rainwater run-off and the
installation of water treatment plants to convert the waste
into water suitable for irrigation.
It was also recommended that
there be a campaign to raise public awareness as to the best
way to dispose of waste and rubbish.
Little has come of considerable effort. Few if any of the
recommendations have been taken up let alone acted upon.
The government has prepared a
Rs9.2 billion plan for the rehabilitation of the Lahore city
drainage system in its entirety, but there appears to have
been no move to implement the plan in whole or part.
The government has also
established the Lahore Water and Sanitation Company, but it
The situation in Lahore is probably mirrored to a greater or
lesser degree in cities across the country, where the
neglect of infrastructure and investment in prestige
projects such as motorways, flyovers and underpasses and
Metro bus systems, are in direct competition for scarce
What use is a Metro bus system if the roads beneath it and
the feeder roads are flooded and impassable? For flood-hit
rural areas there is little remedy beyond appealing to
people to build safer houses — but if you are poor you build
what you can afford and if that is mud-and-straw then so be
More will die and lose their livelihoods before the end of
the 2014 monsoon, most needlessly, and ‘building back
better’ is not an option for most.
The Express Tribune