Flood damage control in KP: Plan impressive, work depressive
PESHAWAR, May 20: The Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) has prepared a seemingly impressive contingency plan for the upcoming monsoon season in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, but no practical progress could be seen so far.
The plan existing on papers only suggests that Pakistan Meteorological Department would upgrade its obsolete weather forecasting system in the region to lessen possible damage from floods in July and September in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa where six districts have been declared disaster prone by the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA).
The NDMA recently warned provinces that heavy rains in upcoming monsoon season between mid-July and mid-September might trigger floods and affect some 29 million people across the country.
In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa the NDMA has identified Peshawar, Nowshera, Charsadda, Swat, Mardan and Dera Ismail Khan as prone to natural calamity in next monsoon.
Sources said that in its contingency plan the provincial authority had pointed out that the Met Department should enhance capacity of the weather forecasting station in Peshawar, install radar system at Cherat in Nowshera district, improve all observatories, establish flash flood forecasting centre for Kalpani in Mardan district and other vulnerable areas and increase capacity of line departments.
They said that these measures had been recommended in the aftermath of July 2010 floods that caused widespread devastation in 20
districts of the province, leaving over 1,100 people dead and displacing thousands of families.
Instead of installation of latest forecasting system all future plans have been dumped in files. An official said that due to unavailability of latest forecasting system in the province the Peshawar centre would depend on Lahore and Islamabad centres or some friendly countries for obtaining weather data.
The sources told Dawn that plans had been approved after completion of feasibility reports and PC-I, but not a single one had been executed and even the main Peshawar station was relying on outdated forecast system.
They said that the federal and provincial governments would provide financial assistance for installation of radar system in Cherat. They said that PC-I for establishing flash flood forecasting centre for Kalpani had been approved and the Met Department would bear its Rs300 million cost.
For improvement of observatories, they said, the Met Department had sent a proposal to the Economic Affairs Division to seek financial support from Japan International Cooperation Agency, but there has been no progress as yet.
A source said that after 2010 floods the PDMA had offered funds for purchase of radar system, but the federal agencies did not accept that offer. “We don’t know why the offer was not entertained,” he said.
According to the contingency plan, the Met Department would also build capacity of line departments and district/local administrations besides facilitating zoning of rivers for identification of flood-prone areas.
The sources said that the relevant provincial departments, especially the irrigation department, could not be able to remove encroachments from the rivers’ banks which created obstacles in flow of water.
An official said that the irrigation department was provided funds well in time for removing trees and other encroachments from nullahs and rivers’ banks before summer, but it could not make any remarkable progress.
He said that during a recent meeting in Peshawar the chief secretary again directed the department and its offices in districts to clear waterways to minimise losses from expected floods. He said that meteorologists had warned that delay in snow melting in upper parts of the province could cause heavy floods in rivers.
The contingency plan says that most of the centres predict normal to below normal rains in the country during coming monsoon, but the current abnormal climatic conditions could result in possibilities of abnormally heavy rains which could trigger flash floods in rivers and streams.
According to the plan, the assumed water level in Kabul River at Nowshera could be 300,000 cusecs in 2012 monsoon compared to 500,000 cusecs in 2010. Prediction for the Indus River in coming monsoon is 750,000 cusecs against 1,100,000 cusecs in 2010.