By Sardar Khan Niazi
Last year flooding ruined crops and homes across Pakistan, leaving many of the country’s poor struggling to restart their lives. It left hundreds of people dead and washed away key roads and bridges, hampering aid efforts.
Millions lost their belongings, livestock, and even relatives, with many struggling just to find dry patches of land to erect tarpaulin shelters and keep themselves and their remaining livestock safe.
Floodwater covered a third of the land, an area larger than England and Wales combined, affecting 33 million people and creating an estimated $31 billion in damage.
Downed power cables presented an electrocution threat amid the standing water, major supply route remains cut off. Helicopters dropped parcels of aid.
Water at least 2-3 feet deep is still standing in some places where the rehabilitation of the affected and the reconstruction of the houses have not started. These people need shelters to save themselves and their children from the freezing cold. Adding to their troubles is the outbreak of several diseases.
Although the government of Pakistan is leading the humanitarian response, with support from UN agencies and humanitarian partners, however, grievances with the government are deep within flood-affected communities.
Despite cold weather kits such as blankets, shawls, and other woolen clothing distributed among the people affected by last year’s catastrophic flooding, the victims speak of seeing little-to-no support from aid organizations.
Temperatures are already dropping in the country, December remained the coldest month, and in January, the mercury will plummet further to well below freezing.
The post-calamity predicament is abundant in flood-hit areas. GBV, child diseases, maternity problems, and psychological issues are facing them. We should work as a nation to get out of this disaster.
Unfortunately, our political leaders seem to have little awareness of the suffering and vulnerability of the flood-affected population in the country. There are reports of only scandals and power games. How politicians can remain unconcerned about the gloomy plight of flood victims who are their voters?
The problems of flood-affected people have increased with the advent of the winter season. Having no adequate protection in the winter season has increased their helplessness. The federal and provincial authorities must come to their support.
Someone has rightly pointed out that instead of spending on projects in the big cities, the authorities must focus resources on addressing humanitarian needs, and the security, nutrition, health, and poverty of flood victims. Failing to do so would push them more into extreme anxiety.
The state’s pursuit to spend in big cities in the form of towers and mass transit is not a good omen. Such unnecessary, or at least untimely, development is making the underprivileged vulnerable to calamity.
Had there been a planned development of towns close to every cluster of 20-30 villages, there would have been less inequality and poverty in the country. People could easily access modern hospitals, better colleges, advanced technology, and better employment opportunities closer to their homes.
Had the governments spent on the development of dams and preparation for mitigating disasters, we would not have been through such huge losses. People move to urban areas not because they want to, but because they have to, as opportunities in their own areas are non-existent.
If the government even today starts planning towns closer to village clusters in different areas, people will get employment and the country will grow economically. Besides, the government should pursue a climate-intensive development model. When it allows the installation of an industrial plant, it should ensure that the said plant has a mechanism to take care of the element of environmental pollution through any suitable means, including a plantation.
Such development is really, what we should be targeting rather than towers and plazas.