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22 September 2017

Monsoon 2016 and Chitral Devastation

The National Humanitarian Network (NHN) urges for a better and coordinated preparedness plan to mitigate the impacts of expected heavy Monsoon 2016 this year. As per Pakistan Meteorological Department analysis, the El Nino phenomenon has weakened and La Nina is favored to develop during the summer 2016 in Pakistan. The latest forecast suggests that monsoon rainfall is likely to be 10-20% above normal over the country, averaged for three months. Extreme rainfall events to occur in the catchment areas of all major rivers may cause floods. Similarly heavy rains in cities can bring urban flooding. Weather incursions in glacial areas can cause sudden melting which may trigger glacier lake outburst flood (GLOF).

The resulting situation from the climate and seasonal variations demands urgent preparedness and mitigation measures from the government authorities. It is pertinent to mention that National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) at Federal level have completed their contingency preparedness, however such preparedness plans requires translation of such initiatives in efficient and effective along with adequate resource allocation at the local level. NHN strongly feels that the Federal and the respective Provincial Governments to marshal the official machinery, since the depleted physical and weak institutional infrastructure at local level demands preparedness on war footings. Past experience of five years is the evidence of such failure in terms of community level preparedness with the absence of DDMAs being the fundamental reason. Monsoon, as a recurring phenomenon, merits better preparedness, efficient coordination and proactive approach by all stakeholders at all levels. There is an immediate need to activate DDMAs at local level rather assigning additional responsibilities to District Commissioner Offices.  

NHN advocates for the establishment of Early Warning Systems (EWS) system in Pakistan which could otherwise minimize the ramifications caused by floods. NHN express its deep concerns over the outdated and obsolescent EWS, while the country is a gripped by an adverse climatic specter. This vital organ of weather forecasting system has four decades old radar system which has gone obsolete. As more rains are expected this year, rescue and relief activities along with provision of medical and health facilities are eminent. 40 districts are completely bereft of flood early warning system. Supplanting the archaic analogue system with modern paraphernalia requires just Rs. 7 billion. Overall cost of improvising the system and expanding its coverage requires Rs. 16 billion. However Federal Government should give a priority to this vital proposal of PMD.

Naseer Memon, Chairperson NHN said that: “There has been slow progress in improving preparedness since floods and earthquake that hit Chitral last year. The episode of recent flash floods in Ursoon in District Chitral that took 31 lives and resultant damages to houses, livelihood and infrastructure, has once again marked the areas of improvements which are indispensable to expedite the means of preparedness. There is a strong need of improving the localized early warning systems and response capacities of district authorities to prevent the disaster impacts on human lives and infrastructure as the monsoon impact will further continue as we read the forecast”.

NHN, Islamabad
Photo Credits: 
NHN