Since the State of Pakistan made no significant investment in protecting life and property of the people saving them from natural disasters for the past six decades, the rains are playing havoc with the life and property. At least 70 people have died across Pakistan as the country remains in the icy grip of a freezing cold snap with Balochistan and Azad Kashmir being the worst hit regions where heavy snow plummeted temperatures, clogged roads, snarled travel and brought life to a standstill. Little respite is expected, at least until Tuesday, because, according to meteorologists, the “strong westerly wave”, affecting most upper and central parts of the country, is unlikely to dissipate over upper parts of the country.
The Provincial Disaster Management Authority says it can confirm at least 17 deaths in weather-related incidents across Balochistan. It has declared a state of emergency in the districts of Mastung, Qila Abdullah, Kech, Ziarat, Harnai, and Pishin. Tons of snow was dumped on Khojak Top the mountainous pass connecting Qila Abdullah with Chaman – snarling travel. The Chaman-Quetta highway was also clogged with motorists and travellers stranded out in the open in freezing temperatures. Paramilitary Frontier Corps has been called out to help police clear the clogged roadways. Authorities have advised against unnecessary travel because the slippery, slushy mess on the roads is extremely dangerous for drivers.The heaviest snowfall – two feet – was recorded by the Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD) in Ziarat, while Quetta and Zhob each received more than a foot of snow.
As for the rainfall, 56 millimeters was recorded in Turbat, 40mm in Pasni, and 26mm in Pishin. Several floods, rains and two devastating cyclones that lashed Balochistan constantly had completely destroyed the provincial economy that was built with the money, resources and efforts of the people with least investment or Government spending, to say the least. Now again, the torrential rains had devastated life and property in more than 7 districts. They are yet to be plugged according to reports reaching Quetta. The people should be rehabilitated in a comprehensive manner so that their losses are fully compensated. It is unfortunate that there is no system of water storage and the planners in Pakistan failed to develop water storage facilities or build dams for the past 70 years.
The rains and snow upon which we look out on from the safer housing and workplaces some of us inhabit are essentially a result of climate change. Altering patterns of climate, glacial melt and rising water levels in oceans are factors in this and the concretisation of cities and other areas also means there is literally less soil for the water to seep into and begin the process which sustains life. Our inability to put in order key agencies required in situations such as this add to this the suffering of people. A summing up of what preventive actions could have been taken to avoid or minimise this latest emergency will again unmask inefficiency and sluggishness.
But while this standard exercise can be put off for the moment, a few other points can be repeated. In today’s world, large dams and smaller reservoirs are considered essential to controlling the river flow. This is where Pakistan has made slow progress. It may not be a practical solution in the case of each river, but where it is, the need is to proceed with urgency. Also, encroachments are the first to be exposed to a river’s rage. Narrowing the path of the rivers results in tides which are ready to boil over. It is crucial that when containment is discussed the issue of encroachment is seriously addressed.