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Flood-devastated Chitral needs change of strategy

By Islamuddin
Flash floods have once again devastated Chitral. Although infrastructure and farmlands will be rehabilitated but without taking steps to prevent future floods no durable safety is in sight for Chitralis from flash floods.
[caption id="attachment_28001" align="aligncenter" width="940"]Photo by GH Farooqui Photo by GH Farooqui[/caption]According to climatologists, climate change and its consequences will become more intense and ferocious. The government remains reactive but in that also it lags behind civil society organizations. For example immediately after the current floods here it was Focus Humanitarian Assistance Programm and Aga Khan Council volunteers who were present on the disaster scene distributing tents and essential items. In the next stage Army stepped in but civil law enforcement system responded late and in slow pace and its effectiveness varied from place to place depending upon the person in command. According to eyewitness reports if at one place they were risking their lives to save people, but at another they were hiding inside the safety of their enclosures, looking out as spectators.
The sorties of helicopters carrying VIPs for aerial survey added salt to injury. Down on land, marooned people were looking for urgent financial assistance but up in the sky helicopter was burning fuel worth two million rupees per sortie for survey. It could have air dropped food items, blankets and tents, which were urgently needed. Codal formalities could have been dispensed with. It made no sense that 200 million rupees were being spent on aerial surveys and visits of VIPs but only 10 million rupees were allocated for relief works. If expenses incurred on the visits of Prime Minister, Chief Minister and PTI Chairman along with their entourages, are calculated, diverting these resources to relief and rehabilitation could have significantly reduced the flood losses. As the saying goes one’s loss is another’s gain. While officials were busy in completing codal formalities and looking for opportunities to get TA/DA, people of Garam Chashma, led by Aga Khan Council, were busy opening the road up to Shoghor. When the GOC was informed of the opening of the road down to Shoghor, he was all praise for the spirit of self-help among the people and promised to move heavy machinery from Chitral to open the Shoghor-Chitral section, which was not possible manually.
After the Prime Minister announced relief for the affected people, they were looking forward with much expectancy to the visit of Chief Minister and PTI Chairman to announce their share. This visit did take place and the offer was matched but the visit itself was marred by mismanagement and confusion leaving behind bad impression in the minds of the people of Garam Chashma, who had turned up in huge numbers to greet Imran Khan. Multiple programs were circulating just before arrival, none of them proved to be correct, which showed lacked of coordination in the party. Some people smelled deliberate foul play or conspiracy to sabotage the visit and deny political mileage to PTI. When Imran Khan was informed about the huge crowd he decided to meet them at helipad but when the crowd People stamped to reach the helipad, the venue was changed to the lawns of Injigan hotel and in the process damage was caused to the private properties of Amanur Rehman. Many stayed back in the original venue in protest against disrespecting local notables who had been invited to meet Imran Khan at the Governor’s Lodge. If PTI fails to improve discipline in its ranks, and develops coordination it will have no one else but itself to blame. Incidentally Commission report also came on the day of the visit to Garam Chashma. Without going into the merits of rigging allegations, it can safely be concluded that PTI was not geared up to win 2013 polls and may well lose the next polls if it fails to attend to party affairs and conduct of its leaders, coming to light again and again but without corrective steps.
The demands that had been drafted for presentation in the welcome address in Garam Chashma were given to him by hand as these could not be read out due to bad management. These included vital suggestions for short and long term implementation. Because of their relevance for the whole of Chitral, summarized version of main points is being published in Chitralnews in the hope that some good can still be come out of this for the good of Chitral especially to save it from future disasters.

Relief and rehabilitation
flood1-Immediate supply of essential foodstuff, medicines and other items of daily use and distribution through the Army/Chitral Scouts under the supervision of Deputy Commissioner.
-Early assessment of losses and rehabilitation by compensating for loss of houses, structures and farm land including orchards and plantations
-Provision of one Government job to each affected family member who have lost his or her business and farmland to the floods and who have no earning family member.
-Diverting rivers and streams to their original bed after dredging and widening river courses to 200 feet and flood stream courses to 100 feet and erecting protective walls along side the river/stream at a distance of 200 feet from the shore and raising foundation from 5 feet depth.

Irrigation channels
-Irrigation channels may be restored immediately to save the remaining crops.
-Food rations may be provided to families losing everything to the floods till the new crop is harvested.
-Heavy machinery may be lent to the affected people for removing boulders and unwanted debris from their field to prepare them for cultivation next year.

Communication infrastructure
-Roads and bridges may be restored immediately by dispensing with codal formalities and assigning the task to Army Engineers and FWO.
-Retaining walls and floodwater channels on slope side of roads may be constructed to prevent future damage to infrastructure.
-Check dams above roads in hillsides may be built to prevent flooding.

Enforcement of laws
-Land use regulation Notification 1975 and River Protection Act 2003 may be implemented strictly to prevent over-grazing through illegal leases (Qalang), encroachment on river beds and cutting of trees indiscriminately.
-Plantation in upland areas may be carried out on war footing after imposing moratorium on cattle farming in vulnerable areas for specified period.
Restoration of mini hydels
-Mini hydel powerhouses constructed on self-help basis are supplementing Government efforts to provide electricity to people. These floods have destroyed some of them and people lack capacity to rebuild them and need Government assistance.

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