Sharifs’ whirlwind visits to flood affected areas

Anusha Khawaja

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Chief Minister Punjab Shahbaz Sharif have had whirlwind visits to the flood-affected areas not only to sympathize with the flood-victims but also to assure them of all the help in their rehabilitation, which no PM or CM did in the past. Indeed, they have vision, wisdom and courage, and see the intense conflict between dynamic reality and static forms. Therefore, keeping contact with the people to understand their problems and mitigate their sufferings is guiding principle of Sharif’s policies. The floods this year have wreaked havoc the way they did in 2010; over a million people have been affected and hundreds of them killed.

Parts of Jhang as well as the surrounding area were completed inundated, and many people took refuge on dykes with their belongings including their livestock nearby. An area of 88,895 acres came under water in Jhang district only, devastating lives and crops.

Scores of villages were hit by a wave of water as high as over 8 feet. Jhang was cut off from Faisalabad, Bhakkar, Layyah and Multan after the dyke breach by explosives. The army continues its rescue and relief operation and more than 7000 people from flood affected areas have been moved to safer places. Seven army helicopters and 90 boats are working on rescue operations in Jhang and Chiniot. Similar rescue effort can be seen in Multan and Muzaffargardh.

In Pakistan, civil administration had absolutely no plans for disaster management. Nawaz government however underscored the necessity of a meticulously worked-out standing operational plan for the civil administration for facing the emergencies. And this time round civil administration is working shoulder to shoulder with military in rescue and relief operations under the guidance of the Prime Minister and Chief Minister Punjab.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif visited Athara Hazari, district Jhang to review flood relief activities in the area, where he was briefed about the relief operations and destruction caused by the floods in the area. While addressing flood-affected people he said that the government would not rest till complete rehabilitation of flood-hit people. He said the federal and provincial governments were working together for the relief of the flood victims. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said those whose houses have been damaged by flood would be fully compensated. Despite his perennial back pain, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif visited the flood-hit areas of Mianwali and Muzaffargarh and other places in the province. While addressing the people at various places in Muzaffargarh and Mianwali, Shahbaz sharif said that Punjab government has chalked out a rehabilitation plan for affectees in regard to distribution of compensation.

Prime Minister had chaired cabinet meeting the other day, in which Chairman of National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) Lt. Gen Mohammad Saeed Aleem gave detailed briefing to the Federal Cabinet regarding damages caused by the floods and ongoing rescue and relief activities. He said helicopters and boats are being used to assist the flood victims. Pakistan Army and provincial institutions are busy in relief activities. The NDMA chief explained that 45,000 houses in three thousand villages have been damaged. Overall, 1.1 million people have been affected by the floods while 274 people have lost their lives. Jhang, Chiniot and Hafizabad are mostly affected areas. Reconstruction phase will begin soon after assessing the damages.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif directed the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) to take all possible measures to protect lives and property of people from floods in Nawaz Sharif said that the federal and Punjab governments would continue their efforts until all flood-hit families are rehabilitated and get due compensation for their losses of their houses, crops and livestock. . Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has decided to pay Rs. 50000 to each family of flood victims, and all the DCOs throughout the province have been asked to provide the lists of the deceased in their respective areas. According to senior official of the National Disaster Management authority, at least 1,091,807 people were affected in Punjab and 31,800 in Azad Kashmir.” Of course, one cannot stop natural calamity from happening, but measures can be taken to minimize the losses. Nawaz government has to expedite the construction of Bhasha dam and many other dams so that intensity of the floods and consequent losses can be minimized.

Unfortunately, the failure in constructing large reservoirs in the last three decades is the reason for large scale devastation and sufferings of the people.

Had the understanding or consensus between Punjab, Sindh and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa reached to construct Kalabagh Dam, the intensity of the floods would have been much less. Raising the capacity of Mangla Dam is a case in point. It was raised by 30 feet in 2009 to increase water storage level of the reservoir up to 1,242 feet above sea level. Thus, water storage capacity of the Mangla reservoir increased to 7.4 million acre feet (MAF) with an addition of 2.88 MAF.

The raised Mangla Dam has not only stored additional water but is also playing a pivotal role in mitigating the current flood by trimming peak water inflows. There is no denying that water and energy are matters of life and death for Pakistan, and the construction of Bhasha Dam along with other dams is vital not only for our survival but also for enhancing the agricultural out-put, for increasing overall industrial productivity, reducing the cost of production due to cheap electricity and generating new job opportunities.

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