Forgotten Floods

Oct 2012
By M.A.

This is an image of a flash floods in Jacobabad, Sindh.

In the past five weeks, we’ve read about anti-film protests, drone reports, peace marches to Waziristan and the shooting of Malala Yousafzai in the western press. Pakistani papers have added a little more to the mix – reporting on Akhtar Mengal’s visit, or Supreme Court hearings on anything from the law and order petition in Balochistan to the Asghar Khan hearing on ISI’s political cell.

All very important – and at times, deeply tragic.

But we have hardly – if at all – read about the 455 people slaughtered in this year’s floods. The 270,000 people in 478 relief camps. The 465,000 crippled homes. The 5 million affected. Or the 14,270 villages and over a million acres of crops inundated.

Why do I say slaughtered?

489 people died in 2011. Close to 2000 in the notorious 2010 floods. Millions affected.

It seems to happen every year. And nobody does anything about it. That’s gross negligence. And some people say gross negligence that leads to death is called manslaughter.

The charge of gross negligence, however, does not only fall on our bureaucrats in the Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA), the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), or any of the other acronyms that manage these sorts of tragedies. It also falls on too many of our reporters and journalists, editors and newscasters, who fail to put this front and center.

Few have asked why floods kill hundreds every year. And why we continue to do nothing to prevent these levels of flooding.

And even fewer – or none – have asked the really big question. Why do these floods even take place? The easy answer has been ‘heavy rainfall’ or ‘excess water’. But is it possible that there is a deeper, more structural explanation? Is there a fundamental problem in our decision to manage our water system? The way in which we do it? Do years upon years of development policy, from colonia-era canal systems to current-day barrages and dams play into these floods? How do we respond?

We spoke of the 2010 floods, but quickly forgot about them. Now floods are an everyday occurrence, happening somewhere far away, to people we do not know. The silent violence of our floods, it seems, pale in the face of the sexy violence of drone attacks and Taliban bombings.

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