Aug 16 - 22, 20

Pakistan is in agony as the ongoing floods not only shattered the already dwindling country's economy but also caused billions of rupees loss to the agriculture sector besides loss of precious lives and public and private properties.

Pakistan is facing the worst flood of its history due to which hundreds of human lives have been lost; crops over millions of acres have been devastated while a massive damage has been caused to property and livestock. The floods have rendered over 14 million people homeless, destroyed around a million homes, and caused widespread damages to the tune of billions of dollars. "Its time for sacrifice and to work with a missionary zeal for rebuilding the country and rehabilitating the flood affetees," social workers said.

The whole nation will have to display a spirit of sacrifice for helping calamity-stricken people and the affluent and well-to-do persons will have to play a vanguard role in this regard. The need of the hour is that every Pakistani should come forward and play an active role for the relief and rehabilitation of the flood-hit people as it is a national obligation.

The flood affectees are crying for help, as they lost every thing in the current devastating floods. More than 50 bridges in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on main highways had been washed away or damaged due to flash floods, in addition to hundreds of schools, hospitals and other basic service facilities. Four major bridges in Gilgit-Baltistan on the Karakoram Highway have been completely damaged while reports about damages to main roads and bridges in Azad Kashmir and Punjab are pouring in.

The United Nations had declared that massive floods in Pakistan had affected 13.8 million people and eclipsed the scale of the devastating 2004 tsunami, the 2005 Pakistan earthquake and the January 2010 Haiti earthquake. The death toll so far has reached over 1,600 across the country.

The data released by Federal Flood Commission (FFC) shows about 377 houses have been destroyed or partially damaged and 2,958,665 persons have been affected across the country by the flash floods.

As per data, 1,876,771 acres of cropped and 2,523,665 acres areas have also been affected. At least 90,618 houses have been destroyed or damaged in Punjab, 156,934 houses in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, 19,619 in Balochistan, 1,389 FATA, 2,336 in Gilgit-Baltistan and 3,454 in Azad Jammu and Kashmir so far. The flood also affected 4,717 villages in various parts including 1,472 in Punjab, 468 in KP, 2,584 in Balochistan and 193 in GB.

Economists believe that the devastation caused by recent floods is unprecedented that may cause food shortage, decline in crop production and high food prices.

According to them, the damage to major crops of Kharif season i.e. cotton, sugarcane and rice may result in lower textile exports and higher sugar and rice prices. The prices of essential food items both perishable and non-perishable have jumped up substantially last week because of supply disruptions, inundation of fields and hoardings. Onion, ginger, garlic prices have also gone up significantly.

They were of the view that major challenge would not only be to ensure food supplies in the flood hit areas but to put in place temporary and folding bridges to restore transportation networks as soon as possible. It would take a couple of years to construct new bridges, broken roads, damaged electricity pylons, etc. They stated that the losses to agriculture and livestock would have a spillover effect on industry and commercial activities to a great extent. This is because agriculture continues to play a central role in the national economy. Accounting for over 21 per cent of GDP, agriculture remains by far the largest employer with 45 per cent of the country's labour force. Its damages on the one hand are likely to affect raw material supplies to the downstream industry that contributes to the export sector and on the other hand reduce the appetite for industrial products like fertilisers, tractors, pesticides and other agricultural implements.

Since the flooding has been widespread, the damages to the cotton crop may not be verifiable at this stage. Cotton being a non-food cash crop contributes significantly to foreign exchange earning. It accounts for 8.6 of the value added in agriculture and about 1.8 per cent to GDP. Likewise, sugarcane is a major crop, which is an essential item for industries like sugar mills, chipboard, and paper. Its share in value added of agriculture and GDP is 3.6 and 0.8 per cent respectively. Another cash crop, rice is one of the main export items. It accounts for 6.4 of value added in agriculture and 1.4 per cent in GDP. High quality rice meets both domestic demand and earns $2 billion in exports per year.

Now strong voices are pouring in against successive past governments that showed criminal negligence in the construction of big water reservoirs. Had big water reservoirs been constructed, the present damages on account of floods could have been minimised. Prime minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani told media persons in Multan that the deaths and destruction in the floods could have been averted if the Kalabagh Dam had been built. He, however, said the government would build the Kalabagh Dam if there was political consensus over the issue.

Farmers' Associates Pakistan's spokesman said the loss to agricultural production had been estimated to be above Rs90 billion as standing crops had been destroyed.

According to him, the availability of vegetables had been drastically reduced while transportation of agricultural produce had become expensive because roads were in shambles and the rate of diesel was at a record high.

He said the prices of meat and poultry would increase as supplies from outskirts of the cities had fallen. Many poultry farms in rural areas had been destroyed and cattle washed away by the floods, he added.

Punjab Chief Minister, Muhammad Shahbaz Sharif is showing great commitment, as he is devoting full energies to rescue the flood affectees of the province. He said that every effort will be made for the relief and rehabilitation of flood-hit people and maximum funds will be provided for this purpose. He announced that a survey to rehabilitate the flood affectees will be started immediately after subsiding of the flood water and a sum of Rs10 billion will be distributed among the flood-hit people within 45 days in a highly transparent manner.

According to him, the Punjab government is bravely facing the situation despite its limited resources but the extent of damage is unimaginable. During his visit to the calamity-stricken areas, he found that the people were facing serious problems but their morale was high.

He said that every effort will be made under the leadership of Quaid Pakistan Muslim League-N Mohammad Nawaz Sharif for the help and assistance of the calamity-stricken people and elected representatives, Muslim League workers, administration, police and other departments are actively engaged in the relief operation.

He said that chief secretary, senior member board of revenue and inspector general police are making commendable efforts for the relief and rehabilitation of the affectees and he is also grateful to Pak army and Pakistan air force for extending cooperation to the Punjab government for the assistance of the marooned people.

The chief minister said that the nation will have to come forward in these testing times and wealthy and well-to-do persons should play their role to help the distressed persons as it is also a religious obligation. He said that all segments of the society including students, doctors, engineers, elected representatives, political workers, and NGOs should supplement the efforts of the government for relief and rehabilitation of the distressed people so that they should not feel that they are alone in their hour of need. He said that besides federal government, the national institutions should also cooperate to alleviate the miseries of the flood-affectees. The whole nation should serve the distressed people with complete unity.

It may be noted that seven districts of the province have been affected by the flood and more than 200 relief camps have been set up in the calamity-hit areas. Food, dry ration, water, and medical assistance are being provided to the affectees. The Punjab government has released a sum of Rs100 million to provide food and ration to the flood affected people. About 19,000 tents have been sent to the affected districts. Authorities in the Punjab district of Muzaffargarh issued a red alert and ordered people to evacuate as water entered the city from breaches in canals.

As of date, Pakistan Electric Power Company suffered estimated loss of over Rs4 billion. The biggest loss was the washing away of entire 132 KVA grid station at Madyan and damage to Chakdara-Swat transmission line.

Managing Director Pepco Tahir Basharat Cheema is personally assessing the safety and status of various installations including power houses besides chalking out a strategy to rehabilitate the thermal and gas power stations recently closed due to floods and suspension of natural gas.

Tahir Basharat Cheema along with CEO Kapco Aftab Mehmood Butt and Ehsanul Majeed, chief engineer thermal powers stations took an aerial view of AES Lalpir, Pak Gen, mid country depot of the PSO and Pak-Arab refinery company.

Cheema said that they took a close look at various installations and then landed at Kapco, Kot Addu to make an on the spot assessment of the damages caused and administrative assistance required for their early rehabilitation. Cheema said that the entire staff of AES Lalpir and Pak Gen were safe and had been evacuated well in time for which he commended the concerned officials.

Presently, Pepco has a storage facility with a capacity of 232000 tons in Muzaffargarh, which should be utilised as reservoir for an uninterrupted supply of oil to power installations and power houses of Pepco till the water recedes from the PSO depot at Mehmood Kot, Muzaffargarh. Thermal Power Station in Muzaffargarh is safe and there was no cause of concern.

The Pepco would request the ministry of water and power to direct PSO to immediately supply additional furnace oil to thermal power station Muzaffargarh, Steam Power Station Faisalabad, Saba Power, Japan Power and Sepcol. The tentative requirement of fuel for Hubco, Kapco, TPS MGH, Saba Power Plant, Japan Power Plant, Sepcol and SPS Faisalabad has been worked out to be around 525000 metric tons.

The destruction caused by floods are beyond imagination, as every day new tragic stories are appearing. The government and fellow citizens need to be ready for difficult time ahead.