Rising from deluge – turning adversity into opportunity

Iqbal Hussain Bacha

Pakistan has been devastated by flood this year. Recent assessments show that over 30,999 homes have been damaged, more than 1,000 lives lost and the economy suffered a colossal figure, 500 billion USD.

Many communities have been swamped and rendered destitute. This is the second-time in over a decade that Pakistan is being challenged by the torrential rains. Response of the government is mostly reactive in that presence of flood/ Disaster Risk Mitigation Plan was badly felt on ground by the District Administrations everywhere.

However, there are certain proactive measures that could be undertaken to turn adversity into an opportunity.

To control/mitigate the devastating effects of seasonal floods, a Contour Trenching Technique (CTT) on the same lines as in District Lakki Marwat KP, can be devised. In CTT, sensitive hotspots for the flood prone areas are identified and mapped with GIS. The CTT is aimed with two distinct objectives: are to save people and livestock from the flood water damage and to store the rainwater by directing the flow to nearby fields which can be used for agriculture.

This can be done via a holistic plan by mobilizing the local communities. Contour Trenches are developed using indigenous resources like clay, mud, sand or rocks. In Lakki Marwat, it has been observed that the activity was a massive success as rainwater was accumulated and diverted for environmentally hygienic purposes.

The later results show that there were increase in the water tables and previously dried wells and springs have sprouted. The dividends this year is that Lakki Marwat is the only district that has exhibited less devastations in the country given the historical trend.

The recent floods in Pakistan show the potential of such proactive measures for flood water harvesting to be used more widely and wisely as a way to prioritize and address new post-disaster concerns.

In times of political instability, skyrocketing economic recession and challenging law and order situation, countries like Pakistan cannot afford such natural calamities. While there may be many reasons to lose hope about the natural disasters and manmade calamities, there still are reasons to think of a silver lining in these dark clouds. The key challenge is to think out of the box and be proactive.

And it’s not that difficult because it can easily be achieved by optimizing the existing resources and leveraging the conventional wisdom for managing the challenges posed by such devastating floods.