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Punjab (and Kashmir) under water
 By   Editorial

Punjab (and Kashmir) under water:-Pakissan.comOnce again Pakistan has fallen victim to the elements, and dozens have died in rain-related incidents over the last couple of days.

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 extensively damaged.

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.

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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.

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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 is dormant.

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 resources.

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 it.

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.

September, 2014

Source:  The Express Tribune;


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