CHITRAL: By Syed Harir Shah [Former Executive Director at International Institute fr Disaster Risk Management]
Chitral is again in devastation of flash flooding. 2016 monsoon spell stated with killing of 31 people, including 8 Army soldiers in URSOON valley, about 80 km in south of Chitral. More people are still missing and rescue operation is initiated. Hundreds of houses and community assets completely destroyed.
The flash flooding of the current season caused by torrential monsoon rains have killed at least 31 people in Ursoon village, Drosh Chitral on Saturday at 10 PM.
The flash flood swept away a Mosque when people were busy with TARABEH and the Army Checkpost there.
Natural disasters are something that are inevitable in Pakistan in general and Chitral in particular, but in civilized societies the vulnerability and the consequences of natural disasters are mitigated by effective pre-planning by government and humanitarian organization. For Pakistan in general and Chitral in particular, poor governance, corruption, lack of capacity, the intentional ignorance of the humanitarian miseries of people Chitral by the government and the development organizations in rehabilitation and reconstruction of the damaged critical infrastructures of last year flooding and earthquake, and a chronic inability of the disaster management system in the country to implement policies, which reduce risk all aggregate to an artificially heightened vulnerability.
Plainly put, we could do a lot better at better planning and implementing the risk strategies for the most vulnerable people of mountain communities of the highly climate risk area. The unprecedented monsoon rains and changing climate that wreaked 80% of the ecosystem and critical infrastructure of Chitral could not be rehabilitated by the state, despite of continuing demand, agitation and protest of the community over a year. Although flash flood consequences at the result of changing climate phenomenon is hardly an issue for the policy and decision makers, but a more serious threats for the most vulnerable people having lack of engineered construction and habitation in unsafe environment.
The people of Chitral are voicing at local, national and international level that the monsoon shifting from southeast to extreme north west is consequences of climate change in the region and a serious threat for the lives and livelihood of the mountain community in the Hindukush range, especially in Chitral, but the authorities not only forgot the humanitarian crisis of the last year devastation, rather ignore the voice of the people for undertaking scientific research to assess the situation and prepare a comprehensive and integrated disaster risk management plan to cope with the changing phenomenon of the climate.
The people of the region appeal to Prime Minister, Chief Ministers and even to the global community at the Paris Conference 2015 for binding agreement on climate victims compensations. Provincial and National government failed to provide technical and financial support to the people for disaster and climate mitigation and adaptation and people are continually dying and suffering over a year.
The highly projected flash flood contingency plan, prepared in a traditional way is neither available nor operationalized. No early warning was issued to the Ursoon community nor evacuation plan was in place. Even the Pak Army could not save their soldiers is a serious gap in disaster preparedness.
The Ursoon devastation is again an eye opener for the decision makers at district, provincial and national level to review the system at the earliest, otherwise the ongoing monsoon floods in Chitral may completely disappeared from the outlook of Pakistan.
With spring rains already having taken their toll in the region, we are face another year in which flooding of catastrophic proportions is a near certainty all over the mountain region. Chitral devastated last year have not recovered from the floods and earthquake, and there are still families living in tented accommodation in the wake of the 2015 earthquake and flooding. Flooding is our biggest problem, with almost half million people exposed to acute risk and it is only ever going to get worse as global warming affects rainfall pattern and extreme weather.
The conventional messages of PM, CM, Imran Khan, and other officials are just a jock with the people of Chitral. In the light of the previous year experience, it is once again requested to the political leadership as well as the disaster management authorities and humanitarian organizations to be honest with the people of the mountain region and please do practically, and the people of the region and professionals will be much more pleased to contribute for integrated and comprehensive disaster risk management for Chitral.