Mak­ing Mon­soons Ben­e­fi­cial

Enterprise - - Issue -

Rapidly chang­ing global cli­matic con­di­tions have turned the mon­soon sea­son into may­hem for Pak­istan. Due to lack of re­silience to disas­ter, eco­nomic and de­vel­op­ment ex­perts have ex­pressed a num­ber of fears for the mon­soon sea­son, usu­ally run­ning from July to Septem­ber. These fears are mostly based on the lack of ad­e­quate pre­pared­ness.

Neva Khan, Di­rec­tor, Ox­fam Pak­istan says, “Now is the time to build up Pak­istan’s re­silience to disas­ter. The cost of im­ple­ment­ing safe­guards pales in com­par­i­son to the dam­age to lives and prop­erty (that could be caused by the mon­soons).”

In 2010, more than 20 mil­lion peo­ple in 78 dis­tricts of Pak­istan were af­fected by the worst floods in liv­ing mem­ory. About 2.4 mil­lion hectares of stand­ing crops and about a third of the rice planted that year were de­stroyed. The paddy yield dropped by 38 per­cent, as re­vealed by the Food and Agri­cul­ture Or­ga­ni­za­tion.

In gen­eral, mon­soons bring sev­eral low ly­ing ar­eas of ur­ban cities un­der a flood­like sit­u­a­tion. Karachi suffers due to an age­ing drainage sys­tem. Through­out the coun­try, mon­soons leave the trans­port and com­mu­ni­ca­tion sys­tem par­a­lyzed with crashed com­puter sys­tems at air­ports and a com­plete power ou­tage.

Ac­cord­ing to the In­ter­na­tional Strat­egy for Disas­ter Re­duc­tion, Pak­istan is at a con­tin­ued risk of man-made and nat­u­ral dis­as­ters and has lost around $10.8 bil­lion – about a third of its 2009-10 bud­get – to the floods last year. Yet the World Bank and the Asian De­vel­op­ment Bank es­ti­mate that an in­vest­ment of only $27 mil­lion in disas­ter risk re­duc­tion mech­a­nisms could greatly re­duce losses from fu­ture dis­as­ters.

Pak­istan’s neigh­bour­ing coun­tries, In­dia and China, re­ceive pro­longed and much more se­vere mon­soons ev­ery year. Both coun­tries have strength­ened their disas­ter man­age­ment and the non-agri­cul­tural sec­tor so that their macroe­co­nomic per­for­mance is less de­pen­dent on the mon­soons, while good mon­soons pro­vide ad­di­tional prof­its. A Mum­bai-based fi­nan­cial ex­pert says, “Good rains en­sure higher farm in­comes and fuel favourable de­mand for prod­ucts, rang­ing from soaps to tele­vi­sions to mo­tor­bikes.”

The mon­soon acts as a po­tent force in push­ing the In­dian econ­omy for­ward. It brings nearly eight to 10 per­cent in eco­nomic growth. This is not so in Pak­istan, where con­tin­ued wa­ter mis­man­age­ment and in­ef­fi­cien­cies in the ex­ist­ing ir­ri­ga­tion sys­tems are com­pound­ing the prob­lem for the agri­cul­tural as well as the nona­gri­cul­tural sec­tor.

On the po­lit­i­cal front, an air of dis­trust is cre­ated be­tween In­dia and Pak­istan over the build­ing of cru­cial dams like Bagli­har and Kis­hanganga. A US Se­nate re­port has aptly rec­om­mended the need for ba­sic tech­ni­cal in­puts for the con­cerned coun­tries to gather bench­mark data, which in turn, could help im­prove wa­ter man­age­ment and re­duce over­all pres­sure on shared wa­ter re­sources.

More­over, in a move to pre­serve sub­soil wa­ter, In­dia has re­stricted its farm­ers from plant­ing nurs­eries on ir­ri­gated waters. The plant­ing sea­son of ma­jor crops like rice, cot­ton and sug­ar­cane has been moved to the mon­soon sea­son to make use of the rain wa­ter. How­ever, in Pak­istan the prac­tice is the other way round. Farm­ers here start plant­ing nurs­eries in April and sowing crops in May. Thus, by the time the mon­soon hits the coun­try, the crop has al­ready re­ceived three to four ir­ri­ga­tions – all com­ing from canal wa­ter. This leaves a dry sub­soil wa­ter ta­ble.

Along with con­struc­tion of dams and efficient disas­ter man­age­ment, the repo­si­tion­ing of crops in the mon­soon sea­son is cru­cial to pre­serv­ing the agri­cul­ture po­ten­tial of the coun­try. A wise use of mon­soon rains can pre­vent the econ­omy of Pak­istan from los­ing around $34 bil­lion worth of ir­ri­ga­tion wa­ter. Ac­cord­ing to agri­cul­tural econ­o­mists, one mil­lion acre feet (MAF) of wa­ter, if used ju­di­cially, should ben­e­fit an econ­omy by $2 bil­lion an­nu­ally. A strong ac­tion plan can make the sys­tem more re­silient dur­ing the mon­soons to sup­port the coun­try’s econ­omy

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