Aug 30 - Sep 05, 20

The floods in the country have caused unprecedented devastations hitting hard to the national economy, displacing more than 1.5 million people and leaving 100,000 families in desperate need of assistance.

The unprecedented floods wreaked havoc. As many as 74 districts of the country are badly hit, rendering over 1,600 dead and eight million marooned across the country. Rough estimates show that more than one-fifth of the total area of Pakistan has borne the brunt of the devastating floodwaters.

The World Bank has said that these were the worst floods in decades and have destroyed crops worth around $1 billion. It further went on to say that the damages are more than in the earthquake in 2005.

The Unicef has labelled the floods in Pakistan as the "biggest emergency on planet earth to this day". More than six million people are on a high risk while 3.5 million children are at risk of falling victim to various infectious diseases in four affected provinces, Azad Jammu & Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan

According to initial estimates, floods have submerged 17 million acres of Pakistan's most fertile crop land apart from washing away massive amounts of grain. A major concern is that farmers will be unable to meet the fall deadline for planting news seeds in 2010, meaning a massive loss of food production in 2011 and potentially leading to food shortages.

As per estimates, the agricultural damages are more than 2.9 billion dollars including over 700,000 acres of lost cotton crops, 200,000 acres of sugarcane and 200,000 acres of rice. The floods also caused loss of over 500,000 tonnes of stocked wheat, 300,000 acres of animal fodder and the stored grain.

The recent floods also stressed the need of construction of new water reservoirs. Had Kalabagh Dam been constructed a few years back, the situation would have been quite satisfactory and the volume of losses would have been much lesser, experts believe.

The country has also lost over $15 million worth export of fruit/vegetables after the catastrophic floods, which have damaged millions of acres land throughout the country.

Almost 60 percent exports of high quality mango have been badly affected by the current flood across the country causing millions of dollars losses to both exporters and growers. The floods devastated a major part of white Chaunsa, the qualified kind of mango for export.

According to Chairman of All Pakistan Fruit & Vegetable Exporters, Importers and Merchants Association (PFVA) Waheed Ahmed, the export of white Chaunsa is done mostly during the month of August and September, but the export of this fruit has almost stopped.

He appealed to the government and the ministry of commerce to distribute the funds of about Rs400 million available at Export Development Fund (EDF) for different project financing among the farmers so that they could instantly start farming again. He said the continuing flood has entirely damaged vegetable crops throughout the country. As a result, the gap between demand and supply has also widened causing price escalation. On the other hand, displaced farmers have lost everything and they are not in a position to invest any more on farming. If assistance is not provided to the farmers then they would not be in a position to arrange for seeds and fertiliser, which may lead to acute shortage of vegetable, he added.

Pakistan Industrial and Traders Associations Front (PIAF) Chairman Irfan Qaiser asked the government to start work on Kalabagh Dam without any further delay, as it is not the issue of Punjab alone rather it belongs to the whole country.

According to him, the country is facing acute shortage of water and power that has put the very survival of the country at stake. Kalabagh Dam is a mega project of national interest, as it could easily curtail the menace of water shortage and generate more than 3500 MW cheap electricity. Moreover, most importantly it could save the people of particularly Sindh and Balochistan from floods havoc.

Keeping in view the devastation of recent flood, the government should not waste time and start construction of Kalabagh Dam immediately to bring progress and prosperity in the country, he said. Irfan said the PIAF would continue its struggle for the rehabilitation and economic revival of flood-hit areas. According to reports, millions of livestock were at risk and at least 200,000 cows, sheep, buffalo, goats and donkeys had already killed. While there is need to provide food and medicine for survivors, agriculture also needs immediate support. In good times, people build up their herds and in bad times, they sell livestock to generate cash, experts said.

According to them, the autumn wheat crop is now at risk and the price of food has been rising sharply. In the southern part of Pakistan, flood waters are still flowing in, rushing through communities, and creating tremendous destruction in Sindh province.

They said the government needs to encourage farmers to sow canola in the flood affected areas early next month by assisting them with seed, inputs and land preparation. This step will be taken to make optimal utilisation of the land before the Rabi wheat season in November this year. They said the government should arrange provision for the free supply of seed to canola growers to make them going early next month when it is time to grow canola.

Further, the raging floods in the country have damaged or destroyed as many as 81 outlets of the Utility Stores Corporation (USC) in the country causing more problems for the flood-hit people.

According to reports, about 81 USC outlets have been destroyed or partially damaged in the provinces of Punjab, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan during the recent floods. However, the damages to the USC outlets in Sindh province are yet to be evaluated.

As many as 34 USC stores have been damaged or destroyed in Peshawar zone, 46 in Punjab and one in Balochistan province. In the Peshawar zone, four outlets were destroyed in Peshawar North region, four in Peshawar South Region, six in Mardan, 16 in Dera Ismail Khan region and one in Abbotabad.

In Punjab, highest 34 stores were destroyed or partially damaged in Multan zone, 26 in Muzaffargarh, four in Layyah, four in DG Khan and 12 in Sardodha zone.

The floods played havoc with a vast population posing manifold challenges to the government to rehabilitate the infrastructure and overcoming food requirements in the country.