By: Sultan ul Arifeen
Climate change is an impending danger dangling above our heads which is thought to hit every single individual across the planet all the like. However, it is seemed to be pretty selective in its devastations when it comes to countries like Pakistan. While the national elite is nowhere near to be affected by the effects of recent flooding, which by majority of our policy experts is being bracketed with climate change iterations, people living in slums and mud houses are the ones who are most affected people by its destructions. The young politicians and policy makers are guilty of continuously calling it a natural calamity, asserting there is nothing that can have been done to avert such crises instead of pray God against our sins. Although, this lame argument does not qualify even up for the considerations by any sane individual, however, with an ongoing propaganda campaign in this regard, there is a dire need to clap back at it.
Maira Hayat, an Assistant Professor of Environment and Peace Studies at Notre Dame University, in her recent interview at BBC, emphasized that the main reason behind this disaster is neither the nature, nor God’s divine punishment, rather it is a man-made disaster. Her views are shared by a majority of environmentalists and planning experts, as the simmering of rain and its intensity may not be in our hands, the wreckage brought by it, is. A keen look through the most affected areas reveal that the havocs caused by the floods could have been averted if one had learnt lessons from the torrents of a decade ago.
First, Administrative failures have been one of the main causes behind the inception of these causalities. No administrator or policy maker paid any heed towards the development of infrastructure along the flood plains. The urban management department kept approving every project along the water channels, at the behest of political recommendations. However, that qualifies for the long-term incompetence, even in the short-run, with an early summer tolling our heads, it was already known to the administrators that it would be followed by an early and extended monsoon. However, despite all these signs, neither the policy makers nor administrators made any effort to deal with this impending crisis, rather kept playing musical chair both at the provincial and central level.
Secondly, unrestrained urge for the infrastructure development has led several buildings and roads across the flood plains to be swamped down by the wrecking waves of water. With no natural machinery available for the water seepage, it started flowing in the urban areas in the same manner as it did last year in the capital of the country, causing damage to the mostly people living in underdeveloped regions.
Lastly, with no national policy on the birth control and family planning, the population of the country has grown almost twice as compared to last decade. This coupled with rising demand for housing pushed several real estate builders towards the development of new colonies on or along the water channels. These human settlements have caused of large scale displacement. Moreover, vast tracts of water, previously part of the flood plain, became dry land, owing to the changing flow patterns, encouraged new settlements in these places. A mass exodus from the flood plains has validated the fact that human settlements have increased the likelihood of hazards.
To counter these disasters from further damaging the lives of common people, there is a dire need for a policy review. In this regard, China at the start of the millennium introduced the concept of Sponge cities, which are urban areas with abundant natural areas such as trees, lakes and parks – or other good designs intended to absorb rain and prevent flooding. As per the experts such cities need to be designed as a growing number of urban areas are experiencing devastating floods. Furthermore, a strict policy against the infrastructure development along flood plains is needed, the violation of which should be deemed as a severe offence against humanity. In addition to that, trees with high water percolating capacity should be planted throughout the country which act as a natural defense against any such disaster. And lastly, more dams should be built which have a higher capacity to store water under such circumstances, although as per some hydrologists, it is counter-productive in the long run.
If the current policies are not reviewed at the account of urgency and a comprehensive ground work is not laid, then such calamities would keep haunting us for years to come. Our governments need to strengthen the local administration who has character and capacity to deal with such human crises rather than just distributing ration in the affectees. The writer is a researcher at a private university.