Pakistan’s Monsoon Floods Not Over

Pakistan’s ongoing battle with the monsoon-caused floods continues even though the government has not received adequate foreign aid. To date, more than 1,600 have been killed, over four million displaced, and 16.8 million affected, writes BBC News. About one million displaced Pakistanis (from one million destroyed homes) have been moved into temporary tent facilities, but five million more need these emergency facilities and don’t have access. Health facilities were also destroyed by the floods, which means reduced access to healthcare even though water-borne diseases are spreading, says Voice of America. However, perhaps the worst part, according to The New York Times, is that flooding continues across the country, spreading down through the Indus Valley. Karen Allen, a Unicef official in Islamabad, the capital, said: “The Indus River is at 40 times its normal volume. Whole cities, of up to 250,000 people, have been evacuated, and people have lost everything.”

World Bank president Robert Zoellick recently put a figure on the total value of agricultural crops destroyed: $1 billion. Additional news sources have reported that non-food crops like cotton, which provides crucial employment and export income, have also been severely damaged. Beyond crops, entire communities’ housing stock and infrastructure have been submerged. Wajid Shamsul Hasan, Pakistan’s high commissioner to the United Kingdom, said rebuilding Pakistan’s housing, infrastructure, and flood control systems will require some $10-15 billion in total.

When the Asia Society asked USAID’s administator, Rajiv Shah, whether there was a relationship between the flooding and climate change, Shah said: “while it’s very hard to attribute any single event to what we’re doing to our global environment it is very clear that that trend is leading to a greater number of large hurricanes, a greater number of floods, hotter and dryer conditions in places that are dependent on weather and rainfall for agriculture, and it’s making it very difficult for the least resilient, the most lower income communities of the world to survive.” In a recent resolution, UN nations argued more strongly that the flooding shows what can happen with climate change. The unanimous resolution providing aid for Pakistan noted that the floods reflect “the adverse impact of climate change and the growing vulnerability of countries to climate change.” 

When Pakistan rebuilds, it will need a mix of both high-tech and low-tech flood control systems, worked into a new comprehensive climate change adaptation and flood control plan. As ArchDaily explains, Japan, the U.K., and the Netherlands all have complex (and expensive) flood mitigation systems in place on major rivers. Often built in local areas in the developing world, low-tech yet adaptable flood control systems may include dams built out of organic materials that channel water into reservoirs. An additional cost-effective approach includes using man-made natural systems like wetlands or other types of green infrastructure to manage floodwater. Pakistan’s flood management teams are now working with external experts on developing new approaches to changing water levels.

Watch Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Amb. Richard C. Holbrooke, and George Soros issue an emergency appeal for aid to Pakistan and see the State Department’s resources.

U.S.A. Today says some 40 U.S. and international aid groups have brought in almost half a billion in emergency relief funds while UN-organized and bilateral aid totals some $250 million. The World Bank has also pledged almost $1 billion and the Asia Development Bank has extended an emergency $2 billion dollar loan.

Still more help is needed: text the word “SWAT” to 50555 to contribute $10 to UNHCR’s flood relief efforts on the ground.

Image credit: BBC News

One thought on “Pakistan’s Monsoon Floods Not Over

  1. Damian Holmes 08/24/2010 / 10:40 pm

    The events in Pakistan will be devastating for years to come.

    Currently there are similar events unfolding across China at the moment with over 1,600 perishing in Zhouqu County mudslides and flooding in North West and South West China displacing millions of people.

    Floods occur every year across Asia during monsoon season, its not a matter of just improving flood mitigation but also of planning but how do you relocate millions of people to less flood prone areas?

    A topic that as landscape architects and urban planners we will have to grapple with in Asia and Africa with millions set to move to existing and new cities.

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