FLOODING IN A LESS DEVELOPED COUNTRY
· GNP per capita ~$2700
· Flooding began in July 2010; at one point ~1/5 of Pakistan’s total land area was submerged including 69,000km2 of fertile crop land.
· The river Indus normally floods every year but in 2010 there was prolonged and heavy e.g. 274mm fell in 24 hours in Peshawar on July 29th 2010. More than half the normal monsoon rains fell in only a week instead of 3months. One reason could have been unusual conditions in the polar jet stream.
· The river Indus carries a lot of sediment and mud from the Himalayas, which silts up the channel and make it more prone to flooding.
· Others think anthropogenic climate change could have strengthened monsoon rains, whilst deforestation in the Himalayas has reduced the river’s lag time.
· Levees built for flood defence were breached and caused sudden huge releases of floodwater.
· The massive human impact occurred because 2/3rds of Pakistan’s citizens rely on agriculture for their income and many of them live close to rivers for access to water and fertile alluvial soils.
· In some places such as the Swat Valley, infrastructure had already been weakened by the 2005 earthquake and not yet repaired.
· Flooding submerged whole villages within the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, killing at least 1,600 people, according to the UN. Twelve million were affected in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab provinces, while a further two million were affected in Sindh.
· Floods directly affected about 20 million people (more than the boxing-day tsunami and Haiti earthquake combined), mostly by destruction of property, livelihood and infrastructure including 100s of bridges and 200 health facilities.
· The World Health Organization reported that ten million people were forced to drink unsafe water.
· The total economic impact may have been as much as US$43 billion including damage to the important cotton industry (Pakistan was previously the 4th largest cotton producer) as 80% of fields were left waterlogged in some areas and crops and livestock were drowned.
· Illnesses such as gastroenteritis, diarrhoea, and skin diseases occurred due to lack of clean drinking water and sanitation. Pakistan also faced a malaria and cholera outbreak.
· There were also long-term impacts including: food insufficiencies leading to malnutrition, damage to schools, Taliban insurgencies and an increase from 33-40% of people living below the poverty line.
· France donated €1.05 million and 35 tonnes of emergency supplies including tarpaulins, blankets, shelters and anti-cholera medicines, while the UK donated £134.5 million.
· The United States donated 71 million dollars as well as 56,000 ready meals and two temporary bridges to help reconnect. They also built water filtration plants.
· However after 6 months charities were surprised by the slow international response as only 56% of the $1.96 billion requested by the Pakistani government had been given. This could be due to the global phenomenon of “donor fatigue”. President Zardari was also criticized for his slow response. Many felt the Pakistani Army was slow to rebuild bridges, deliver aid or set up relief camps.
· In the longer term flood warning systems are being funded by charities such as Oxfam and the US government, including radio stations used to educate people of the danger of flood water and the different toxins and diseases in it meaning that people will be more prepared next time.
Discussion point: Who was worst affected by these floods? Could they have been avoided?