Floods still swamp Pak de­spite warn­ings

The Pak Banker - - NATIONAL -

Pak­istan has re­in­forced its weather fore­cast­ing ser­vices since mas­sive floods struck five years ago, but gov­ern­ment agen­cies are strug­gling to act on the in­for­ma­tion, with ex­treme weather con­tin­u­ing to bring new dis­as­ters. Re­cent flash floods, trig­gered by heavy mon­soon rains in July, were forecast weeks in ad­vance by the Pak­istan Me­te­o­ro­log­i­cal Depart­ment (PMD).

Glacier melt and over­flow­ing gla­cial lakes, trig­gered by a sharp rise in tem­per­a­tures last month, wors­ened the floods, which have left a trail of de­struc­tion.

Around 170 peo­ple have been killed and 126 in­jured. Nearly 5,800 homes have been dam­aged in around 2,500 vil­lages, and some 920,000 peo­ple are dis­placed by the floods, ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional Dis­as­ter Man­age­ment Au­thor­ity (NDMA).

"Mas­sive losses and dam­ages from the re­cent dev­as­tat­ing sum­mer mon­soon floods … in­di­cate the brazen un­pre­pared­ness of dis­trict, pro­vin­cial and fed­eral gov­ern­ment agen­cies to re­spond to fore­casts," said Arif Mah­mood, for­mer PMD di­rec­tor gen­eral.

De­spite warn­ing of tor­ren­tial rains and flash floods this sum­mer, pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ments only woke up to the threat when large swathes of the coun­try were al­ready un­der wa­ter, he noted.

On May 19, fore­casts of ex­treme rain­fall ex­ceed­ing 100 mm per day in the north­east and north­west, and a flash flood warn­ing, were shared with gov­ern­ment of­fices and dis­as­ter man­age­ment agen­cies so they could take mea­sures to pro­tect peo­ple and prop­erty, said PMD Di­rec­tor Gen­eral Ghu­lam Ra­sul.

"Loss of lives in flood-hit ar­eas could have been staved off suc­cess­fully this time had the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment and rel­e­vant (lo­cal) dis­as­ter man­age­ment author­i­ties heeded the PMD's warn­ings," he told the Thom­son Reuters Foun­da­tion. "We are now able to forecast ex­treme weather events like tor­ren­tial rains, floods, gla­cial lake out­burst floods and droughts some three to four weeks in ad­vance, with over 60 per­cent ac­cu­racy," he added.

From 2005 to 2011, Pak­istan ex­panded its glacier mon­i­tor­ing net­work into the higher Hindu Kush, Karako­ram and Hi­malayan moun­tain ranges to track chang­ing pre­cip­i­ta­tion pat­terns, the pace of gla­cial melt and spin-off floods, Ra­sul noted.

For­eign donors sup­ported the in­stal­la­tion of five glacier mon­i­tor­ing sta­tions in north­ern moun­tain re­gions, each cost­ing around $20,000, to bet­ter as­sess cli­mate im­pacts in the up­per In­dus basin and re­lated flood haz­ards.

And in De­cem­ber 2013, the Fin­nish gov­ern­ment pro­vided 10 au­to­matic weather sta­tions for the north of the coun­try.

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