Pakistan prepared to cope with Monsoon floods: Zartaj Gul

Pakistan prepared to cope with Monsoon floods: Zartaj Gul

ISLAMABAD: State Minister for Climate Change Zartaj Gul said the National Monsoon Contingency Plan (NMPC) 2019 revealed the country was prepared to cope with impending disasters due to Monsoon floods.

Addressing the National Pre-Monsoon Preparedness Conference 2019 organized by the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) she said the Authority had formulated a detailed and compact emergency plan to mitigate the impending monsoon flooding risk through consultative discussions made with all relevant stakeholders.

Zartaj said, “After 2010 Pakistan had been facing recurring disasters due to explicit impacts of climate change over the region.”

She said during the super floods of 2010 it had been evident from the devastation that it wreaked the country and added we were not equipped to meet with such massive cataclysmic disasters.

“The preliminary information before disasters strike was important to me as it had to be disseminated to the masses and their point of view over the matter merits recognition. NDMA had adequately developed the contingency plan which spoke volumes about the excellence of its expertise and the knowledge shared by NDMA would be welcomed and appreciated by the public. People wanted the government and the authorities to stand with them in times of emergency and disasters,” the  minister remarked.

Pakistan, she said was the land of courageous and mighty heart people where either the Armed forces, local government, civil authorities and general public everyone was alert during calamities and volunteer to work during such situations.

“We had to prepare ourselves to embrace and manage extreme disasters and weather conditions keeping in view the increasing climate change impacts in the region as environmental degradation was not in our control rather disaster risk reduction and management could be managed in human domain,” Zartaj mentioned.

She said, “We had heavy urbanization with massive encroached areas which was a serious challenge to curb urban flooding resulting in heavy life and property losses.”

NDMA Chairman Lt Gen Muhammad Afzal said that the event culminated the provincial or regional monsoon consultative and preparedness process that started in Dec, 2018 that was post monsoon consultative discussions and also the provincial level preparedness talks.

“It will set the stage for consolidation of the gains of the preparedness process enabling the disaster management authorities of the country to deal with the coming monsoon season 2019 floods in a more professional manner,” he underscored.

He emphasized the need to focus on conventional preparedness and response measures during monsoon 2019. We must not lose the sight of climate change phenomenon which had already started casting influence in this region in the shape of heat waves in few major cities, less rainfall in winter and some phenomenon of cloud bursts at various locations in the country, he added.

Chairman NDMA also warned that the country in view of weather forecasts and unchecked choking of drains in the cities, we might plunge into the cycle of urban flooding in near future where the provincial disaster management authorities and all other agencies involved in the preparation of reducing urban flooding in the country should start working on its mitigation.

“In connection to this, we were also likely to have concentrated minimum rains occurring in a short span of time causing flood like situation in the city,” he added.

The precautionary measures, he said should include hazard maps for major cities in urban flooding with recorded history of disasters envisaged circumstances with awareness of the communities, early warning and evacuation.

He added that capacity building of municipal corporations with priority of major urban centers with heavy duty dewatering pumps, generators and training of operators.

He said the district governments must be directed for widening, dredging and de-silting of sewer drains, natural water courses passing through urban areas and evacuate population residing in the plains of rivers and drains.

He said, “I am proud to say that NDMA had prepared National Monsoon Contingency Response Directives 2019 to be launched by Member Operations NDMA. All the provincial disaster management authorities (PDMAs) are at liberty to incorporate these guidelines into their provincial monsoon contingency plans.”

Swiss Ambassador and head of Humanitarian Aid within the Swiss Agency for Development and Corporation (SDC) Manuel Bessler said that Pakistan and Switzerland had quite similar topography and faced natural hazard risks of the same kind due to catastrophes.

“There had been great progress made in disaster management during the past decade in Pakistan. It is impressive to have provinces’ and Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD) forecast for future disasters to manage prior mitigation measures,” he added.

“Switzerland was ready to extend its assistance to Pakistan if any disaster strikes the region,” he informed.

United Nations Resident Coordinator Neil Buhne said he was impressed through the detailed and complete NMCP-2019.

He said that it was a good step and should continue year on year whereas Pakistan was among the most vulnerable countries due to climate change.

The government itself had learnt a lot of lessons for planning during 2010 super floods as UN also did not respond well as per local data during these floods which rendered huge experience to gather, he added.

Member Operations NDMA, Brig Mukhtar Ahmed highlighted the constraints of PMD for spatial, temporal and other kinds of accuracy in forecasting. “We lack National Disaster Response Force so we have to rely on the armed forces while managing extreme disaster like situations,” he added.

Brig Mukhtar also briefed the participants on the National Monsoon Contingency Response Directives 2019 and shed light on disaster response mechanisms and NDMA’s initiatives to enhance relief storage capacities and other core measures taken for disaster management.

DG PMD Muhammad Riaz informed the conference participants that forecast depicted normal rainfall during monsoon 2019 across the country. However, above normal rainfall was expected in northern areas and below normal southern areas.

He added that the disaster history revealed extreme disasters and likewise situation and urban flooding occurrence in below normal rainfall pattern.

The representatives of PDMAs of Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan, Sindh, State Disaster Management Authority Azad Jammu and Kashmir, Gilgit Baltistan Disaster Management Authority, United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) and National Health Emergency Preparedness & Response Network (NHEPRN) delivered detailed presentations on monsoon preparedness initiatives taken by the authorities.