Pakistan is going to be clenched between Coronavirus and monsoon flooding.

In recent years, monsoon rains have escalated in Pakistan. The country is already fighting with deadly Coronavirus but now a new crisis is a homecoming risking food crisis and mass displacement. Can Pak fight against Coronavirus and monsoon floodings?

Extreme flooding and drought in recent years have sparked repeated national emergencies in Pakistan, which depends on the Indus for 90% of its food production. In 2010 and 2013 heavy flooding destroyed the harvest and the homes of millions of people while displacing them for months. From February to April 2019, widespread flash flooding affected large parts of Pakistan, most severely in Baluchistan, KPK, Punjab, and other provinces.

Climate change in the subcontinent has resulted in rising temperatures that as a consequence has resulted in increased melting of glaciers. This winter has seen heavy snowing, this will add to the danger of flooding when the snow melts and the water in addition to the one coming down from the glaciers make the rivers and canals overflow their banks.

Apart from rains and glacier melting, monsoon the pattern also seems to change for Pakistan. Monsoon is due in August and September and it has resulted in flooding and the destruction of harvest and housing including the displacement of hundreds of thousand people in previous years.

There is thus a growing danger of flooding due to melting waters and monsoon in general. For this year in particular this should have alarm bells ringing in the concerned government departments. Experts say the intensity and frequency of flood in Pakistan will only increase.”

The current Coronavirus crisis should not be an excuse for not planning for the rest of the emergencies looming. On the contrary, there is even a heightened danger when the presence of the coronavirus and the need to observe social distancing coincides with the overflowing of rivers and canals and people displaced.

Who would then be able to observe social distancing in the situation of Coronavirus and monsoon floodings? Or even reach the infected people to bring them to hospitals? On the contrary, the current coronavirus crisis necessitates preventing any such scenario that includes the overlapping of two different crises.

One continuing tragedy in our country has been the failure to dredge the dams in time to increase their depth and thus increase storage capacity. Consequently, instead of being stored – critically important for meeting the rising demand for drinking water and increasing the agriculture sector’s output – a lot of water is released into the rivers (also not dredged to hold a higher quantity of water) that all end up in the Arabian Sea.

The period between now and early May, when the heightened water flows into rivers will begin, is the time when rivers and canals must be dredged to increase their water holding capacity, and the silt dugout used to heighten their embankment to minimize chances of water flowing over the embankments and flooding the fields and habitations alongside. Yet no politician or bureaucrat appears bothered about the imminent danger in this critical period.

Flood prevention measures must swing into action. Pakistan is blessed with a highly developed river management system which can be effectively used to prevent and mitigate the full impact of a flood. We have a Federal Flood Commission and the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) – while the NDMA is fully engaged with the coronavirus both bodies must be able and ready to deal with the forthcoming flood situation.

But so far no sign of activity has made it into the media and given that Pakistan is what it used to be there is a chance that all are busy staring at the daily updates of how many have been newly infected or how the PM will deal with the outfall of the sugar and wheat reports.

Although each year hundreds of millions are “spent” by provincial Irrigation Departments on the river and canal dredging, there is a fear that the bulk of this job is “done” only in official records, not in reality – malpractice that has never been checked though it is exposed by each flood we are hoping that Pakistan will make through both crises of Coronavirus and monsoon floodings

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