One year after the floods

Published: July 29, 2011
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A year has passed since the worst disaster in Pakistan’s history. Last year’s floods caused by monsoon rains, submerged close to a fifth of the country’s total area underwater, directly affected about 20 million people, destroyed livestock, crop, property and infrastructure with a death toll of nearly 2000. The total economic damage was estimated to be close to 43 Billion U.S dollars and the occurrence was termed by the UN Secretary-General as one of the worst disasters he had ever seen.

Before Pakistan was called the world’s most ‘dangerous’ country by the western media (after the May 2nd incident), it was called the world’s bravest country during the 2010 floods. I could go rant about how the media somersaulted but that can be done another time. What I want to bring to attention here is what a brave nation we are indeed. It is the duty of the government to care for its people, if not ever at least in times of despair. As the floods hit, our president embarked on a trip to England, not long after the United Kingdom’s prime minister stated that Pakistan “exported terrorism”. Some donations to the government were lost through corruption –  leaving some donors confused, villages which had people who had access to people in power or had people which had links to people in power were built faster and secured better as opposed to villages that didn’t and are still in dire conditions.

It has also been widely reported that aid was refused to some Ahmadi, Sikh and Christian victims. This lack of empathy is very disturbing.

The global response to the tragedy was regretfully a little slow, and sadly not as generous as it was to preceding disasters (which affected fewer people) but it was a response none the less and should be praised instead of compared.

A disaster is a disaster.

Stand out donations were by Saudi Arabia who allocated over $362million and, Iran with $101.2million and the United States with over $216million. What ‘hurt’ frankly was the work done or not done by those in power back home. People came to the point where they didn’t trust the government and its allies with their money anymore and took the task upon themselves.

I had the pleasure to travel around the state of Illinois working together with some amazing people trying to do what we could for the sufferers of the floods. Community centers, mosques, schools, community colleges and universities were working in tandem collecting donations and making individual life saving kits.

Just within 30 miles of the city of Chicago and through the help of some remarkable individuals we flew out 1000 life saving kits and $20,000 worth of donations in some of the most fulfilling hard work I have ever done in my life. I have no doubt that similar work was done in areas all around North America and any part of the world where there was patriotic youth – about $6million was donated to the Imran Khan foundation by November 2010.

It is absolutely undeniable that Pakistani people are amongst the most charitable in the world, and when it comes to helping their own country, they’re incomparable. But no matter how much we thrash about, without good governance, such a disaster can never be surmounted completely.

My questions to current and past governments are as follows:

– Did water levels in water bodies in Pakistan never rise to alarming levels before the 2010 floods?

– Were there not floods in 1973, 1976 and 1992?

– What has the Federal Flood Commission done since its establishment in 1977?

– Where has its allocated budget been used?

– If not then, then why has there not been more dams built now?

–  Why haven’t specific flood absorption dams been built?

– Why haven’t there been embankments and spurs built?

– Has there been spending and improvement in the flood prediction and meteorological systems?

– If any, what steps have you taken since the 2010 disaster to ensure that there would be better damage control in the case of another event?

I assure you, just by doing a little research you’ll find that it is simply corruption that has played a monumental part in how appalling last year’s disaster was.

The floods may have been a natural disaster but they turned into a man-made one soon after. There is unquestionably blood on someone’s hands and you would think that if anything, after what happened, at least some action or measures would be taken now. But sadly, I don’t see anything.

A year on, 800,000 families remain without a permanent shelter and 1 million still need food. $11billion is still estimated to be needed for construction (which is a quarter of the nation’s budget).

I ask you to not forget this crisis just because a year has passed. Please continue your hard work and donate generously and pray that someday our leaders wake up as well and realize that action is the antidote for despair.

Those who do care must out-number those who do not care or as Thomas Berry puts it:

“If the earth does grow inhospitable toward human presence, it is primarily because we have lost our sense of courtesy toward the earth and its inhabitants”.

Thoughts and prayers with all those affected by last year’s floods.

Do you think Pakistan is better prepared for floods in 2011?

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Abu Bakr Agha

Abu Bakr Agha

A software engineer, musician, writer and activist from Islamabad, currently based in Chicago. He tweets @AB_Agha (twitter.com/AB_Agha)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.