HYDERABAD: Experts, academicians, rights activists and lawyers have urged the government to revive old and natural waterways and ensure climate-smart planning in the country to cope with weather patterns driven by climate change.
They said that 3.7m acres of land of Sindh was affected by recent devastating floods and it still remained submerged in water.
They said the people affected by floods were living under open sky, exposing them to different ailments which could cause death of children and newborns.
They said the government should ensure crop and livestock insurance mechanism and rebuild houses of the people who had lost their abodes in the floods.
They were speaking at a consultative meeting organised by Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) Hyderabad chapter to discuss issues of flood victims at local press club here the other day.
HRCP Sindh co-chairperson Asad Iqbal Butt said the HRCP talked about planning, but it was something directly linked with research institutions which were nonexistent in the country. Thus planning kept eluding people, he said, adding that Pakistan used to export wheat until 1952, but then under a planning, the agriculture sector of the country was destroyed.
He said the point whether loan offered by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) was properly utilised or not could never be determined.
He said that rain forecast went unheeded and that led to a big disaster in the country, leaving tens of millions of people homeless.
He said that now the biggest challenge was rehabilitation of that population.
HRCP Sindh vice chairman Qazi Khizer Hayat said the commission was also holding sessions at district level to ascertain facts regarding flood-hit people.
He said that a national conference was being convened in Islamabad in December where various proposals would be presented before the government.
He said the government would be urged to provide shelter, food and clean drinking water to the population on a war footing, and dewater their villages and areas.
He called for revival of old and natural waterways in Sindh forthwith and dismantlement of all encroachments on their routes. Land should be distributed among landless farmers while the flood-hit peasantry should be compensated for the losses to their crops besides agriculture implements.
He demanded that flood-hit infrastructure should be fully rehabilitated, unemployment allowance should be given to people and women should be provided protection in relief camps.
HRCP regional coordinator Prof Imdad Chandio and assistant coordinator Ghufrana Arain said the commission was playing its role in addressing issues of flood victims. Their issues would also be highlighted in the national conference, they said.
Sindh Irrigation and Drainage Authority’s general manager transition Ghulam Mustafa Ujjan said that due to its geographical and topographical conditions, Sindh had to bear the burden of upstream water flows. Since natural waterways remained blocked, floods and rains spelt disaster, he said.
He informed that 18 natural waterways existed right from Ghotki to Run of Kutch that remained either blocked or encroached upon.
He urged Sindh’s intelligentsia to raise a strong voice for the restoration of the waterways. If their routes were restored, floods would not wreak havoc for the next 200 years, he said.
Sindh General Health Services Director Dr Jumman Bahoto said that 1,082 health facilities were affected in Sindh and the concerned department provided healthcare facilities at private properties, including shops and homes.
He said that floods led to an upsurge in the cases of malaria followed by those of dengue. One million skin disease cases were also reported besides 782 deaths, he said.
He, however, said that no death was caused by the ailment but feared that deaths could occur among the displaced population, especially among children, due to harsh winter this season.
Representative of a non-governmental organisation, Suleman Abro, said that since super floods of 2010, which was evidence of climate change phenomenon, no planning had been made.
He said that more destruction was seen than 2010 floods ‘this time round’. Climate change had changed rainfall pattern as well, thus, rains continued till September, he said.
Prof Ismail Kumbhar of Sindh Agriculture University, Tandojam, said that since 2005 floods had caused large scale devastation in Sindh which had become prone to disasters like cyclones, waterborne diseases and earthquakes. This had increased poverty which in turn engendered crime, he said.
Hyderabad Roshan Khayal Forum convener Dr Hameed Soomro said that many villages were still under floodwaters. Villagers in many cases could not access their villages due to blockade of routes by water, he said.
Women Action Forum leader Haseen Musarrat said that people were dying from hunger and snakebite. Regrettably, the government had not yet come up with a proper rehabilitation plan for the victims, she said.
Published in Dawn, November 18th, 2022