Qunfayakoon

Monsoon

In South Asia on 5. August 2010 at 13:11

Monsoon season is a regular rain season in the months of July and August which is a dire need for the farmers of the Subcontinent. With a shortage of rainfall in recent years, this year forecasts were positive, although no one expected the rainfall would come out to be a devastating flood affecting the most poor and needy.

Pakistan is a country geographically built around great rivers which are its lifeline as well. Historically people have settled in greater numbers near rivers with fertile land, which is also the human nature all over the world. In a country of 175 million people where the majority of farmers are dependent on river flows and resides next to them, the effects of any flood will be catastrophic.

So it happens, last week heavy rain (over 300 millimeter in 24 hours) in the northern areas of Pakistan causes water from rivers to flow over with massive torrential rain still increasing the amount of water. The result is over 1.500 deaths while 3,2 million people became affected by these floods. The water is on its way to Punjab and will shortly hit the Sindhi lowlands.

The death tolls are not that high if compared to other similar natural disasters, but the economic and social consequences are huge. Each area being hit makes sure people get homeless, businesses get closed and crops gets damaged. The last part is of great significance in an agricultural nation. Wheat price has in the recent months increased because of natural disasters as floods and heat waves in wheat producing countries. In addition Pakistan was a net-importer of wheat because of water shortage and bad agricultural policy in recent years. With the lack of a part of this year crops for the average Pakistani the inland market price will skyrocket which already is too heavy even for the middle class.

With Punjab suffering after the war torn Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, Sindh province is next. The weathercast is showing gloom pictures of rain and floodwater from Punjab and the Indian state of Rajastan. With vast areas of flat landscape it is expected the flood will carry with it the crops and villages on its way. People in rural Sindh are dependent on agriculture and household, they will loose their kettle and crops as there are no places to seek refuge. Some people, aware of the risks refuse to leave their property as without it they have nothing.

In addition, there is also a forecast of heavy rain falls in the southwestern province of Baluchistan. The province is the biggest in size and has much barren land. People will suffer just as those in Sindh and Southern Punjab but will lose little development, as there were not that much infrastructure there in the first place. Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa have lost and will lose great deal of such. Bridges, roads, electric grids, sewage systems, even the land the city is built on has been damaged by the floods and the erosion in the aftermath. The provincial minister of Information, Mian Iftikhar Hussain said the province has lost all the progress it has made the last 50 years. It will probably not take long to build up the destroyed infrastructure, but with the disease of corruption in the nation it is expected a portion of the relief efforts from the government and NGOs might fall in the hands of cynical persons.

Relief effort is not easy work. Especially not when huge natural disasters makes that much destruction. Even developed nations have hard time rescuing those in need. We have fresh examples of UK and France, and not to forget USA with its Katrina. In a developing nation like Pakistan, a nation suffering for the last 10 years from terror, and a region which in the last 35 years is suffering from militants and drug trade and no governmental control it is a difficult task to rescue and build up the damaged property and infrastructure. The army with its heavy presence in the area has always been a institution of great help when in need. In addition the huge amount of volunteers from private organizations both inland and from the Pakistani communities outside its borders is trying its best to help those in need. Recent figures shows that 3,2 million people are affected by the floods, while around 1 million people have lost their homes. These are numbers in addition to those 1 million who fled their homes last autumn when the military launched a offensive against Taliban groupings in the mountain regions and tribal areas.

World Food Programme (WFP) is trying its best to reach those who are cut off from the road networks in the northern portions of the country. They are also painting a grim picture of the food situation. The UN with its helping apparatus and the Red Cross Committee has alarmed severe risks of diseases spreading because of contaminated water and air pollution. In a news report the journalists described the scenes as smelling of raw dead meat.

Even grimmer are the humanitarian wings of terrorist organizations in Punjab, more specially the notorious Lashkar-e-Tayyaba with its new face in the form of Jamaat-ud-Daawa. Such organizations have huge experience in crisis management and have also the material they need in order to reach and help those in need. Already having records of being on the scene before the government could under the 2005 Kashmir earthquake, the organization is taking advantage of poor governmental management to help those in need. This will indeed give some plus points to such organizations in the country (already popular), while decreasing the governmental approval ratings (already down the drain). Taliban did declare ceasefire but have recently killed a high ranking security official and have been in clashes with the military in Orakzai agency in tribal areas. These catastrophes are surely a welcoming incident for such groups, some even say its God’s punishment on the people who went against Taliban (reminds of some hard line cleric in the US on Haiti earthquake).

The world has been generous. USA, China, UK, UN and every country with means have sent help. The same has humanitarian organizations like International Committee of the Red Cross. In addition the thousands of volunteers who have and still are collecting funds and materials for the needy. The people will surely be grateful. But when the flood is gone, the money transactions are done and the last headline is published, the affected people will be left with nothing for the years to come. Markets, bazaars, shops, crops and stocks will be a governmental responsibility, but a promise is not always kept, and when no one is watching, the progress will be slow. Only poor people, victims of terror and natural disaster will suffer.

In short, do not forget these flood victims as are earthquake victims of Haiti or those who die of hunger and drought in Niger. Such incidents should build up the humanitarian in us in our otherwise comfy life.

Meanwhile, the president of the country, Asif Ali Zardari  is in Europe on a diplomatic and private trip, and has refused to cancel it to make solidarity with his countrymen.

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