Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Flood mitigation:Planning and community participation

Perhaps nothing can be done about the current flood victims,except the traditional relief activities that are being undertaken by the governments ,civil society and the international bodies.Pakistan is a flood prone country.Next flood would not be far off.Average intermission period has been estimated as 4-5 years;actual may be less or more.We should learn the lessons ,and take steps to reduce the misery and suffering that may follow in the next flood.Here are some suggestions;

1)Now that the water is still there and memories fresh,maximum flood water levels reached at all flood locations should be recorded ,not only in the books by relevant agencies but by the communities and the local administrations. Permanent Markings of water levels should be made on walls,and structures and if such things are not available ,permanent water mark pillars should be made.

2)Flood zoning should be done,keeping flood water depths in view.Simple building and land use codes should be installed, including prohibition on houses in certain areas where water depth has been excessively high.Raised houses,kutcha or pucca,one foot above the flood level should be encouraged and enforced.House clustering built on raised platforms should be promoted , around which there should be planting to prevent erosion.In riverine areas,where housing is permitted,brick housing may not be allowed;only temporary structures such as built of Bamboo,Chatai and sarkanda may be permitted.Even agricultural activities may have to be banned in especially precarious and vulnerable areas.Alternative land would have to be allotted to the often landless and poor people who engage in cultivation in these areas.We have dealt with the issues of Land and Housing reforms elsewhere.If for nothing else, then for good flood management purposes,some kind of Land Reforms resulting in land transfer to the rural poor and the landless has to be introduced.

3)All public buildings such as schools,hospitals,and administration houses may be built either on appropriately raised plat forms or entirely on first floor leaving ground floor unbuilt;only columns be there on the ground floor.Such shaded space can be used for many social and public purposes in the normal times.

4)A community center should be built in every village on an appropriately raised plat form.Average size being 2-4 acres depending on the population and requirements.This need not be pucca construction.Sand and soil from the river and other excavations and some stones could be utilized for raising the plat form.Only perimeter may have to be reinforced and also protected through plantings.In ordinary times ,this can be used as a community center and during floods and other emergencies as a refuge center where humans and as well as cattle and other belongings could be accommodated.A store should also be made where valuables could be deposited under a locker kind system,where feasible.

5)All of this requires pre-planning and community involvement.Floods need not cause so much misery ,losses and despair,if adequate planning is done and astructure for community involvement is ready for implementation.In our case ,the whole community becomes a victim and gets paralysed and converted into a begging and miserable case.Who would not like to contribute at least in terms of labour and other cooperation ,who has suffered flood miseries.Community involvement and participation is a must;it means local administration,peoples representatives as well as people.It appears that in all these days ,relief agencies have been working mostly on their own,without an opportunity for people to participate and contribute,except some on-field improvisations that may have been there.I have noted a guideline document on preparing an emergency management plan on the web-site of NDMA.But I could not find any actual plan itself for different districts,except Jehlum.Even that plan would have been useless,as it involves a significant number of local government representatives,who are no more there.We have dealt with the unfortunate absence of Local Government system at this time of calamity elsewhere and made a case for the revival of previous LGs for a period of one year.

Floods;lack of a communication protocol

Federal Flood Commissioner claims that advance information was conveyed to government some times in June,more than a month before the advent of floods.The same info as not shared with public.It does not appear that even provincial governments were informed either.Had the issue been discussed widely even among government circles,the media would have picked it up.It is quite obvious that the flood info was kept as a closely guarded secret.There are three possible explanations;there is always a possibility ,however small,that flood and weather forecast does not come out to be true;advance information may spread untimely panic among people;and that exact timing could not have been possibly predicted.Flood warning ,as per routine,was issued 3-6 hours before.That is too short a warning for such a horrendous flood.

Even a guarded discussion in the media could have provided some time and guidance to the people to do some advance planning to save their lives and property.Floods are not like earth quakes.After all people know and have experienced floods in the past,especially those who live in riverine areas.Perhaps there is no Communication Policy in this regard.Such an issue should not be left on the whims and opinions of the reigning administrators.It should be a formal procedure based on research and evaluation.Communication is among many other issues that have been found wanting due to the lack of a formal Flood Management Policy substituting an obscure manual that is reportedly catching dust and no body seems to have access to it.We will discuss the Flood Policy issue in some detail later.

If nothing else cattles could have been saved.President Zardari has earlier spoken about fixing a micro-chip onto the cattles ,in order to be able to locate them in emergency or in case of loss and theft.This could also facilitate cattle insurance scheme as a part of flood insurance or independent of it.Let us implement it sooner than later.NADRA's technology and infrastructure would prove handy in this respect.

Monday, August 30, 2010

The need and rationale for a Water Policy

One may decry the need of a policy and argue that there is already a defacto policy and dispersed over many documents and rules.And the sophists may argue that our policy is not to have a policy.We want to be free of constraints and be dynamic.Although policies often are vague and broadly drafted affirmation of principles and targets and often remain unimplemented,yet in some areas policy affirmations and determinations are vitally required,especially where many agencies and sectors may be involved.We have seen how power policy has attracted IPP investment and Export policies have promoted and expanded exports.Policy makes decision making easy on the part of the bureaucracy and saves time and effort of the stake-holders in sorting out issues.

We do not have a water policy,although we do have elements and components of water policy;an elaborate drinking water policy has been prepared;there is WAPDA's water vision 2025,which also goes by Planning Commissions water vision,which is essentially a WAPDA's strategic Plan outlining its investment pro-gramme and strategy over the period.These are parts of a potential water policy but not a policy in itself.A policy is a holistic document,enunciating principles,objectives,goals and targets,resolves and intermediates cross sectoral issues,lays out priorities and may even provide guidance to working rules.

It would be relevant here to point out that some of our flood management problems are due to the non-availability of a policy document;the issue of coordination between PMD,FFC and WAPDA on operation of the dams;the fixing of priorities,storage vs hazard and human life.An archaic Flood Manual could not possibly resolve the question in time.Thus there is a need of an integrated policy drawing upon existing framework,improving upon it and gather support around it.Water is an important issue,especially when it is getting scarce requiring prioritisation and choices to be made.There are many issues which remain to be straightened such as royalties and user charges,water allocation among various user sector,investment schemes ,strategies and targets,around which much needed action is to take place.Although,one may like to add a caveat here that in the presence of water sector reports of the lending agencies such as ADB and World Bank,what is the need of a policy.Policy without the backing of money has no teeth.They have the money and teeth as well.This was a mere caveat.A nation of 160-180 million people needs much more.

Our neighboring country India introduced a Water Policy as early as in 1987 and revised and updated it in 2002.Our Ministry of Water and Power should make an immediate beginning in this respect.The honorable minister will get a feather in his cap ,as well as the government. After all it is a highly competitive political and democratic environment wherein achievements are to be made and demonstrated as well.The immediate contribution of a political government is enunciation of policy.Implementation keeps following.Even after 62 years of our national existence,there are still new horizons and virgin territories.

Pakistan Drinking Water Policy

Ministry of Environment has prepared a draft policy for drinking water ,which is in the process of government approval.Work on this policy was earlier initiated by the ministry of health almost a decade ago under some UN initiative.Nothing of substance perhaps is initiated in our beloved country unless the impulse comes from the UN system.Finally the policy process was taken over by the Ministry of Environment.It is a good omen and an elaborate policy .

The draft policy announces certain policy principles the most important of which is that access to safe drinking water has been recognized as a basic human right , the existing inequities working against the poor are to be removed and that the drinking water allocation gets precedence over all other uses.The policy also lays out time bound targets related to water access,water treatment etc.It is an elaborate draft, painstakingly prepared,most probably with the assistance of foreign consultants,as is indicated by its relative sophistication ,its emphasis on gender and financial sustainability.

The draft,however,contradicts itself when it deals with financial sustainability and user charges.It should be patently clear that the poor cannot pay.One third of Pakistan is abjectly poor and does not get the required daily nutrition.Most water policies and the associated literature ,I have come across,argue in favor of recouping of O&M costs and not the full cost recovery.If drinking water is a basic human right,water is to be subsidized either through external or cross subsidies, for the poor.There is a strong case for differentiated water rates as is currently being done for other services such as Electricity.I wonder if the policy makers would make the requisite adjustments in this respect.Similarly,one would suspect the role of private sector and private-public partnership,however elegant and fashionable these terms may appear to be.Private sector requires more than adequate return,while in water sector,ROA/ROE are relatively unknown terms.One could however see the role of public-ally subsidized cooperative schemes.

However,drinking water policy coming from the ministry of environment,which is a kind of staff ministry having advisory functions and no implementation resources, may remain a stumbling block.I wonder if the Ministry of Water would have been more appropriate agency for drinking water policy which could have issued it as a part of the broader Water Policy.Perhaps drinking water standards and testing routines ,water and waste water plants standards could be more appropriate for the environment ministry.

If the policy is not to have the fate of just a good document,it has to have ownership of the line ministry concerned which in this case is Ministry of Water and Power.I am not sure whether the delay in announcing the policy might be due to these issues that I am raising here.

Review of FFC and Flood Management System

In Pakistan floods are no novelty.A total of 12 floods came between 1947 and 1995,giving an average intermission period of 4-5 years.This ,however,is an average;it can come again in the next one or two years or in more than fiver years,but surely it will.It is important that we identify mistakes and shortcomings and take steps that these are not repeated again.Not only that,but potential future mistakes are avoided as well.

PMD reportedly did make a flood forecast early in June.But how credible these were?Apparently these were credible enough to lead into what one may be apt to call strategic pre-view.But does PMD system issues a formal probabilistic data,and the relevant agencies give credence to it and the formal follow up SOPs are tied to PMD ,is not known.A clear indicator is that WAPDA did not start emptying its dams ahead of time,so as to make room for the coming flood water.Every body appears to have played safe to save his skin,and unsaved the system as a result.There are two remedies to it;formal system and protocols dealing with quantified uncertainty and operational coordination.Both have been lacking.Federal Flood Commission thinks that it is a scientific body only and has no extra powers of coordination, a claim that we would examine in the light of statutory and written role a bit later.

All of this indicates the need for a formal and independent third party review,to inter alia,include the following aspects;

1.Review of the PMD forecast system,as to how scientific and structured it is.How much of possible traditional safe playing is involved.Is there a formal stochastic procedure available to deal with the uncertainty e.g.99%,95%,90% or just 50-50 probabilities based predictions.
2.How good ,inclusive and extensive is FFCs(Federal Flood Commission ) working. How simplistic or sophisticated is the so-called computer modelling;what are its variables;what is the scope of its output, quality,frequency and time-liness;does it limit itself to barrages only or goes down up to village levels;does it includes dykes and structures and their level and condition of repair;does it include topographical details at the required map scale to be able to generate forecasts for village inundations dynamically.Do they produce flood maps regularly and dynamically?Has adequately detailed flood zoning been done and tied to flood scenarios?Most probably their system does static analysis and generates broad macro outputs of limited value in flood management,otherwise eleventh hour and totally improvised management by local administration would not have been there.
3.Where is the flood manual?It was not visible at all.Is it adequate?when was the last time it was updated?How frequently it was used? what were the problems using it?
4.NDMA/PDMAs have apparently only a role in relief assistance and fire fighting,which it reportedly did with the assistance of Pakistan Army and Navy.NDMA. was established in the wake of Earthquake of 1995?.It has not been given much of a mandate and role in Flood Management.Every body including provincial governments believed that FFc is responsible for flood coordination and management,which FFC denies that it has such responsibility.FFC says it is only a scientific body.In that case it may be advisable that NDMA be given the responsibility of flood management and coordination,both in terms of planning and execution,while FFC continues to perform its purely technical functions it is capable of.

5.Consideration may be given to organize NDMA on the lines of FEMA(Federal Emergency Management Agency) of the USA.More centrist outlook may have to be adopted than the delay prone federalist structures in such emergency situations.There is certainly a major role of provincial and local governments in relief operations.However,the executive authority of emergency management may not be diluted by federal principles for the benefit of constituents themselves.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Flood dividends

In agrarian societies floods have always been considered and looked forward to.They brought much needed water and soil fertility and rejuvenated the land.Due to increasing population and human settlements and environmental degradation, misery,afflictions and losses have increased.In this blog ,I have tried to examine if Floods have or would give some dividends as well and somehow balance the sheet.Some benefits will accrue to the economic and social life of the people,as we shall see in the following:

Firstly,it is being predicted that in Punjab ,there would be more agricultural out put due to water and increased soil fertility.One is not so sure of Sindh,as devastation has been more intense and widespread.Will water recede soon in time and people rehabilitated in time to start their agricultural cycle,is an open question.

Secondly consensus on storage dams seem to be emerging in Sindh, as if we needed this much flood destruction to recognize the truth and the reality.No amount of obfuscation would convince people that there is no water to be stored,that peoples lives and property could be saved by flood mitigation role of the storage dam and that human life is more important than the loss of land in delta .Already Bhasha dam is being built without opposition from circles in Sindh.Let us forget Kalabagh for the time being.There are psychological and political issues involved.It is difficult to accept too soon that one was wrong.Hopefully truth would have dawned on every body.

Thirdly provincial irrigation departments have been thoroughly exposed.It would be easier for the reigning government to introduce and implement reforms, quite a few of which have been sabotaged by these people.I have mentioned earlier and elsewhere of the telemetry system for water flow data that is in abeyance and many other reform measures in the pipeline.If government wants to break the water mafia.this is the time.

Fourthly,people will come to realize that Environmental issues deserve attention.These are not mere fashion as has been generally perceived and that we are connected with the global environmental issues. Global warming may be hurting us more than others ,as more floods and droughts are expected in the wake of the impending climate change.And the loss of biodiversity and the deforestation in the catchment areas contribute to flood peaks and gushes.Environment is a resource which feeds and protects us.May be more sensitivities may develop to pollution and environmental degradation.

Fifthly,more realism on international political issues and perceptions.Taliban announced that they would offer 20 million US dollars in flood relief ,if the international aid is rejected by the government.They might have looted and plundered to come with this kind of money.They in fact continued their atrocities even in the month of Ramazan.International technical.logistic and financial aid came in.It is expected to go beyond one billion US dollars in humanitarian relief assistance alone.Other project aid and loan is also being discussed.Even IMF is loosening its conditionalities.We should be very thankless people if we dont appreciate all of this ,and differentiate among friends and foes. I am sure this would also be a great source of public political education.

Floods and the mighty Indus

Mighty Indus is being blamed for its ferocity;too big to be predicted or protected against? May be too convenient an excuse on the part of those who are blamed for inaction and mismanagement.And there are others who almost gave in to the mighty Indus and started worshiping it in the province of Sindh, celebrated a Devta Sindh day.Some participants offered milk and some kind of Bhaint ,it was reported.Mighty Indus has responded with a lot of bounty.Indus river definitely important for us,as our resourceful country has only one river and the rainfall is too less on the average.Occasionally in monsoon period,excessive rains possibly in combination with excess melting of glaciers, we get floods as we are experiencing now.

Let us see how big is Indus.Is it one of the largest rivers in the world , as super-patriots and conspiracy theorists would like to believe.Far from it.Indus is not big by global standards.It comes in a rank of 26th,take what ever criterion.Indus has a length of 3180 kms,drainage area of 0.96 square kms , and a mean discharge of 7160 cubic meters per second(250,000 cft per sec).
In the current floods,we have experienced 1 million cusecs(cubic feet per second).By comparison, river Amazon in Brazil,the greatest river on earth,has a drainage area of 6.915 square kilometers and a mean discharge rate of 219,000 cubic meters per second,almost thirty times as much water as Indus and 7.7 times the current flood discharge of Indus.Indian rivers of Ganga and Jamna are 2-3 time bigger in flow/discharge.River Congo in Africa is 41,500 cubic meters per second,more than five times that of Indus;similarly Yangtze of China with 31,900 cumecs.So let the size or might of Indus not scare people into submission and provide justification for inefficiency ,if not insensitivity.

On the other hand death toll of floods ,although lamentable,has not exceeded beyond 2500 or so.Perhaps disease may increase this number in future,God forbid.In previous floods death toll used be in the range of 30-40000.Certainly things have changed over the years due to technology,media,communication and development activities.New organisations have been formed ,and there are national and international NGOs.World community and mutual inter-actions have expanded.

We are told that the low profile Federal Flood Commission deals with the flood issues.NDMA has not much to do with it accept for flood relief work.Did one notice the profile of FFC.It has been a total failure in so far as communication is concerned.They have put up a website which appears to be still in development phase. I could download their advisories with a lot of difficulty on my fast broadband internet connection,because instead of putting it in PDF ,they scanned their letters and uploaded the same on their web-site,making the file heavy(several Mb).This explains more or less the outlook of the organisation.This must change for the better.

There is nothing to download in the download section.The so called Flood Manual supposed to have been developed by this organisation is not there,neither has it been made available elsewhere.Perhaps it is confidential ! Flood maps,GIS,inundation forecasts and risks.This perhaps is too much to be expected from an antiquated organisation.A review of this organisation into its functioning and output,organisational structure and outlook is highly recommended.The problem is that this time flood came after a gap of more than ten years.People forget floods and remember it when the next one wakes them.But these organisations are maintained throughout with ever increasing budgets and projects.

Provincial irrigation departments,although inept,corrupt and antiquated much more than the FFC,are receiving the public wrath rather exclusively.FFC must be included in this displeasure.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Land and Housing Reforms: Innovations and opportunities due to the floods.

The destruction of life and property of people in this flood has developed the need and rationale for launching some innovative policies by the government.Some real resource transfer has to take place from the actual or/and potential domain of the rich and the powerful.Roti, Kapra and Makan are the key concept which the ruling party has not abandoned.There are others on the political spectrum who may ,even though grudgingly, support non-traditional and innovative actions
Classical Land Reforms are out of fashion and out of sync .There is no possibility of forcibly taking away some or all of the land owned by the big land lords.This may be a dream of arch-communists but there are practical ,philosophical and ideological issues involved in such confiscation.But there are other possibilities to provide some means or assets to the poor especially in the context of the current floods.

Government does not have the money nor the power that comes as a result of a revolution.Whatever flood assistance that the federal and provincial governments would be able to give to the flood victims would be out of the aid and assistance of community.However government has surplus land and the power to change land use , and appreciate its value.It can divert the surplus so generated to the landed aristocracy and the politically or socially powerful elite as has been the case in the past ,or divert the surplus to the poor.We shall examine how this can be done.

First of all ,there is government land mostly in rural areas,which can be gifted to the landless and also to the flood victims of a certain category.More land could be developed as well . Due to the increased supply of water as a result of new storage dams,more land would come into the irrigation system,which should be passed on to the landless poor.However this is a rather long term measure to be implemented when new dams are built and commissioned.Government is already distributing underutilized forest land among the landless.

Some conditional land leases should be issued to the flood victims of the Kachcho land who are cultivating land parcels there and are also living there.Because they do not have titles ,they did not leave their places for the fear of Qabza by others.There are flood control issues due to which permanent and water restricting structures should not be built.Necessary flood control measures could be built in the land leases and the amendments in the law if required.

Under new irrigation schemes,whenever these come up, trade-able water rights could be awarded to the landless,which he could sell to the willing customer or use it as his collateral or share in the distribution of agricultural output and profits.In this way he becomes partner in place of a surf.

In urban land laws ,provisions for high -rise building societies could be introduced,where virtual plots in the third dimensions are allot-able.Real state developers could be encouraged to develop multi-purpose projects,where in in lieu of subsidized land or free land use conversion,a certain percentage of 3-D plots are allotted to the poor.Currently a lot of money changes hands on conversion of agricultural or residential land to the commercial one.Some fee does go to the local or provincial government but most of the surplus is siphoned away by the builders,landowners and the social and political elite.So the name of the game is to create policy or innovation surplus and divert it to the poor.

There is a lot of government land that is available on the periphery of Karachi near Sohrab(outside Karachi limits) goth and in district Thatta that could be allotted to the flood victims especially from the inundated towns of Jacobabad, Larkana and Thatta.If Sindh has to develop regional economies are to be established ,as has happened around Lahore.Karachi itself would benefit from the regional economic development as Lahore has. Karachi's' economy has been stagnating for many years now. One of the reason is lack of close geographical interactions and resource reservoirs.Every body would benefit. However the idea would fail if it is used for political and ethnic manipulation and advantage.

I would like to add a caveat here.Last PML(N) government headed by Mr.Nawaz Sharif introduced an innovative housing policy and strategy for urban areas by transferring surplus government land and plots for low-cost public housing projects.A good innovative project was ,however,reportedly marred by construction scams.There was no need of involving government
in construction by a party which believes so much in private sector.That project perhaps be revived in one form or the other.Some residual land or assets may still be there.Musharraf government quietly put a lid on it.No NAB case has been filed wrt this project apparently.May be,there is one or a few.I am not sure.

In another blog,I have proposed buying surplus land from large landowners of 500 acres plus and creating an economic and tax regime that may facilitate such land transaction between the two.It would be quite feasible to acquire substantial under-utilized land from the large land owners.I would not repeat that here for time and space reasons.But who would bell the cat.Government of the day is forced to face one crisis after the other.Innovative policies require peace of mind and a supportive political regime.

Flood Compensation

Government of Pakistan has already started paying compensation to the flood victims.Initially a sum of Rupees 22,000/- per family is being paid.More installments may follow after some more verifications.Mr.Nawaz Sharif has suggested a sum of Rupees 100,000/- per family to be given to the flood victims.It is expected that the compensation may reach to about that level.

Initially an estimate of flood affected population was put at 20 million,which was rather too high.May be this is the total population of the 17 affected districts.More refined estimates are pouring in which would be finalised when the results of UN surveys is out.A population of 6 million or 1 million IDP families is perhaps more closer to reality.

Le us try to analyse the affordability and genuine requirements of the victims.For Kacca areas who generally donot have pukka houses and are quite poor,starting life again may not be as costly as others.In todays prices a two room Kutcha house would cost Rs 30,000/- to build.A living allowance of Rs 30,000/- may cover expenses of three month.And another 30,000/- probably to be the working capital for whatever they were doing before the floods. Adding a cash liquidity for emergent expenses totals it to Rupees one hundred thousand.On e would like to be more generous and helpful atleast on paper,but then that would be an exercise in futility and shear waste of time due to poor implementation prospect.For ,one million families,this would amount to Rs.100 billion.GOP has already received flood aid offers of more than one billion US dollar.I am not aware how much has already been spent on emergency activities. I believe not much because alot of in kind domestic and foreign aid has come also.So flood aid of up to 1.25 billion US dollar would be able to support the relaunching of one million families.It appears Mr.Nawaz Sharif got his calculations made before issuing the statement which is a good omen and should be welcome.

There has been a tradition of issuing grotesque estimates in Pakistan. President Zardari started with a requirement of 100 billion US dollar even before the floods.More technical estimators in the bureaucracy later toned down the losses due to terrorism to 45 billion US dollars.There have demands earlier from PML for getting all the loans written off which should be a hefty 70 billion US dollars.This time more grotesque estimates are coming from government of NWFP.There is quite a possibility of inter-provincial dispute and discord on the distribution of flood compensation.It is hoped that sense would prevail and reasonableness would be shown.

GOP and provincial governments may legitimately expect concessionary loans for repairs and rebuilding.Asian Development Bank has already offered a loan of one billion US dollar.Interest rates offered are not known.International community may provide some assistance towards a reasonably low interest rate.Fortunately,in Punjab higher agricultural out put has been predicted due to flood fertility and residual moisture.However one would not be too sure of Sindh where Thatta is the most recent and probably the last victim.Ironically the lack of preparedness and the surprise element remains the same as it was at the advent of the floods.Whom to blame?
Perhaps there is a genetic problem with us.We cannot put our act together even when facing such challenges.Perhaps a Nuremberg trial may have to be organised and irrigation officials ,especially, of Sindh be arraigned and all those who indulged in political decisions in breaking the bunds and the dykes.

It is highly important that IDPSs return home as early as the flood water recedes to start their normal lives.All payments should be made transparently through the banking and Card system , a good innovation of the PPP government wrt its Benazir support programme.An expeditious distribution of compensation in two or three installments in the next two ot three months would be in order.Uth bandh kamar kya darta hai ,Phir dekh Khuda Kya karta hai

Friday, August 27, 2010

Risk Management:floods and businesses

There is an old saying that irrigated societies are dead in the long-run.Rivers used to meander and change their course leaving the population clusters away.With no means of transportation of water in those times,populations perihsed.This is probably what happened to Mohen jo daro And Harappa.Rivers have been tamed to flow on a fixed path,as is Indus,which it does normally.River control measures have also had side effects:raising of river beds which results in floods.Flood this time has been the bloodiest in history of almost biblical proportions.A vareity of measures are responsible for excessive flooding and the associated destruction.

In 1971,many people in the then West Pakistan felt relieved due to the seperation of East Pakistan, because people here were fed up of frequent typhoons there and the need for help.Apparently Bangla desh has more or less solved its typhoon problem by installing appropriate managemeny system and we donot hear much of a routine calamity and destruction,although natures roughness shoul be still there.

In due course Pakistan has emerged as a country with all kinds of afflictions;terrorism,eath-quakes and floods and the problems compuonded due to the familiar but apt cliche of poor governance.Part of the problem could be handled and thus misery reduced by the same proportion due to adequate planning and management.We are today by all measures a high risk country.We have to learn Risk Management.

Risk Management used to be a term specific for hazards in insurance business or credit risk in banking.Today risk management is much more pervasive.Nations indulge in risk analysis as a national security measure and a wide array of stake holders and professionals participate in it. An area ,where classically militaries alone used to dominate the action.Recently Switzerland has made public a similar exercise.

Our business enterprises should also start taking business risks seriously and as a formal business management functions. we frequently come across business closures or heavy losses appreciably reducing networth of companies.Risk management is implicit and built in in all areas of management functions.However what is less common is an itegrated and formal risk analysis and management consisting of identification,assessment,evaluation,mitigation and communication.In the current flood tribulation,communication management has been a major issue and sorce of many undesrved miseries.We have discussed this seperatel under floods.

Business risks could be reduced and losses curtaied by adopting formal risk managent procedures.Medium and large businesses should make a beginning.In many countries adoption and communication of a formal risk management system by public listed companies has become a or comoing to become a legal requirement.There used to be a COSO frame-work of the US and now there is more universal ISO 31000 standard dealing with Enterprize Risk Management.Our management training institutions should also make a beginning in this respect.

In the recent floods many business assetts and infrastructure has also been affected resulting in significant losses to mobile and power companies.Plant siting decisions in the past have not seriously considered and evaluated flooding issues. Seismic designing and legal requirements in this respect are of relatively recent origins.Excessive exposure or market share in a product,sector or geography or technology are the non-physical risk factors.The list can be long and every entities list and its permutations and combinations different:inputs risk of availability,quality and prices and technological develpments in user,product,processes etc;labour risks involving cost,unrests and politics;receivables ,and there concentration in localities ,sectors etc.

One way to mitigate flood risks esp to businesses ang generally public would be flood insurance.In Pakistan flood insurance has not yet been introduced.Through flood risk insurance, resources could be mobilised in a regular and predictable way .Flood risk insurance would also bring formalisation into risk mitigation and compensation measures.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Flood Forecasting and Management System in Pakistan

Extracted from UNDP / PDMA workshop proceedings


Definition of Flood Control System;

• Types of Flood Forecasts;

Pakistan - River System;

• Flood Risk Management-Agencies Involved;

• Flood Control System in place at the National, Provincial and District Level and Its


• Role of District Authorities in disseminating early warning.

Definition of Flood Control System

To forewarn the communities (riverine/nullah/valley) living downstream of the river system/stream/nullah/glacial lake etc. about likelihood of approaching of High or Very High or Exceptionally High discharges for the sake of:

i) Taking real time evacuation /preventive/safety measures on immediate term basis; and

ii) Structural and non-structural measures on medium and long term basis.

Flood Forecasts – For Existing Flood Control System

  • Color Coded Qualitative Flood Forecasts;
  • Weather/Flood Forecasts;
  • Routine Daily Flood Forecasts;
  • Significant Flood Forecasts;
  • Areal Inundation Flood Forecasts.

Types of Flood Forecasts

· Color Coded Qualitative Flood Forecasts:

Meant to forewarn the frontline flood mitigation authorities regarding the possibility of floods due to arrival of monsoon low/depression in the vicinity of Pakistan. This forecast is issued in three color codes.

· Weather/Flood Forecasts:

Such forecasts give a descriptive information on the current and the next 24-hours weather and flood situation

· Routine Daily Flood Forecasts;

It also contains the current and the 24 hours weather and flood situation. But it gives the quantitative information of the magnitude of prevailing and the forecasted flood flows at the maximum number of direct or indirect recipients.

Types of Flood Forecasts

· Significant Flood Forecasts:

It is the forecast of occurrence of a “High” or “Above High” level flood classification at a specific site/locations over a river and/or nullah within the Indus Basin River System

· Areal Inundation Flood Forecasts:

This forecast is issued only when “Exceptionally High Flood” occurs and the areal inundation is forecasted on the basis of hydrodynamic model.

Present Flood Control System – Agencies Involved

1. National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA);

2. Federal Flood Commission (FFC);

3. Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD);

4. Flood Forecasting Division (FFD);

5. Pakistan Army (Engineering Corps);

6. Four Provincial Irrigation and Power Departments (PIDs);

7. Water and Power Development Authority of Pakistan (WAPDA);

8. Emergency Relief Cell, Cabinet Division, Islamabad;

9. Provincial Flood Relief Departments/PDMAs;

10. SDMA (For AJ&K), similar arrangements for FATA, NA;

11. Pakistan Commissioner For Indus Waters (PCIW);

12. Police Information Department;

13. Pakistan Forest Department;

14. Pakistan Railways;

15. Information Department;

16. Provincial Communication & Works Departments;

17. Civil Defence;

18. District Administrations/DDMAs

Flood Control System In Place

  • Flood Forecasting Division (NFFD), at Lahore;
  • 10-CM QPM Weather Radar System at Sialkot, Lahore & Mangla, 5 CM Weather Radars at Karachi, Rahim Yar Khan, D.I.Khan and Islamabad;
  • 90-HF Radio Communication sets for effective rainfall, river flow/stream flow data receipt and transmission;
  • Meteoroburst Telecommunication System for improved flood gauging & elemetry through collection of real time hydromet from remote sites and its dissemination;
  • Flood Plain maps;

Flood Control System In Place

  • Indus Basin Flood Forecasting System (FFS) through Rainfall-Runoff Computer modeling;
  • Wireless Network;
  • Structural interventions on various primary and secondary rivers;
  • Urban Flood Control System;
  • Flood Warning Manual;
  • Dams Management Committees;
  • Coordination Committee at Federal Level.



Besham, Jaglot,

Skardu, Daggar

Phulra, Oghi,

Shinkiari, Khairabad,



Kallar, G.H.Ullah,

Muzaffarabad, Domel,

Kotli, Kohala,

Plandri, Azadpatan






Tracks of Monsoon Low/Depression During

Flood Season 2009 & 2008 (15th June to 15th October)












Tarbela Dam Flood Management Committee

Tarbela Dam Flood Management Committee has been formed for reservoir operation and flood routing to take immediate and on the spot decisions as per SOP. The composition is as under:

  • G.M-Tarbela Dam Chairman
  • Director-PMO Coordinator
  • Chief Engineer (Civil) Tarbela Member
  • Chief Engineer (Power Station) Tarbela Member
  • R.E (External Works) Barrage Member
  • S.E (Survey & Hydrology) Tarbela Member
  • S.E (Design & Surveillance) Tarbela Member
  • Security Officer Member

Mangla Dam Flood Management Committee

Mangla Dam Flood Management Committee has been formed for reservoir operation and flood routing to take immediate and on the spot decisions as per SOP. The composition is as under:

Ø Chief Engineer-Mangla Chairman

Ø S.E (Hydrology) Member

Ø R.E (Civil) Member

Ø S.E (Surveillance) Member

Ø R.E (Power) Member

Ø Dy. Director (Hydrology) Member

Ø Senior Officer (Security) Member

Coordination Committee At Federal Level

For coordinating the Flood Management and Forecasting Activities with specific reference to avoid flood peak synchronization during flood season following Coordination Committee exists at the federal level:

i) Chief Engineering Adviser/Chairman Convener

Federal Flood Commission

ii) Member (Water), WAPDA Member

iii) Director General - PMD Member

iv) Pak Commissioner for Indus Waters Member

v) Chairman IRSA Member

vi) Rep. of Director General Engineers, Army Member

Breaching Sections in Punjab


In case of Exceptionally High Floods, part of the discharges are escaped by providing breaching on pre-determined sites for safety of the Hydraulic Structure (Bridges & Barrages).

  • Total No. of Breaching Sections in Punjab = 17 No.
  • Operated by PID = 12 No.
  • Operated by Railway Department = 4 No.
  • Operated by Highways Department = 1 No.

Role of District Administration

Following Cycle of responsibilities is in place:

  • Issuance of Flood/Weather warning by FFD to all including NDMA/FFC/Provincial Flood Warning Centres etc;
  • Issuance of necessary alerts/orders/warning by NDMA to respective PDMAs;
  • Issuance of necessary alerts/orders/warning by respective PDMA to respective DDMAs

Flood Management & Map Phobia in Pakistan

In my blog of yesterday , I decried the absence of formal and even legal processes required in flood management.On technical side most elements and organisations are there and mostly reasonably equipped.There are weather monitoring stations,radars and real time river monitoring telemetry system.Pakistan Meteorological department (PMD) and Federal Flood Commissionerate(FFC) are old and established organisations , while NDMA is relatively young.Nor are floods new to Pakistan and neither are other disasters such as earht-quakes absent from our scene.

If one goes by the contents of a presentation arranged by UNDP for NDMA and made available on the internet,all kind of the required analysis of floods are done;from precipitation,river flow montoring and forecast to flood zoning and mapping.But what happened on the ground,however,is quite different.People ,communities and local governments were hardly in formed and were caught unaware.Flood Commissioner says we informed the governments ,NDMA and GHQ.I have discussed earlier of the lack of clear and formal procedures in this respect earlier.

Advance flood fore cast alone in itself is not sufficient enough.What one needs is a dynamic and timel data processing and information dissemination system.The situation on ground is that public was caught unaware on 3rd August when floods originated.Communities did not know till the eleventh hour whether they are required to move away from their settlements and to where.Once rainfall had occurred and no major one comes later,it is a fairly simple job to predict as to which areas and locations would go under water.Lower riparian populations could have been informed.Either there is vague and general info involving very large areas which no body believes or the local administrations finally decide on eleventh hour as to vacate or not,when it is too late and the consequent misery and catastrophe.As it is administrative structures are week and local governments dissolved.

First of all flood maps should be widely available based on the flood history,if not to individuals then to communities and local administrations.Flood forecast maps dynamically updated on a GIS internet based system ought to be available. Churning out maps in one month or more of time is of no use.Google Earth has also made life easier.If you make a commercial arrangement and fee payment with them,atleast public dissemination aspect becomes very effective and economical.

There is however an out of sync map phobia in Pakistan at all levels from public to the defece and security agencies.Mapping and GIS has been actively discouraged and opposed.As a result Pakistan is very backward today in a number of fields due to lack of availability of the GIS infrastructure and tools.Volunteer groups disseminate some GIS data with a lot of fear of being harassed by the security agencies.It is almost illegal,although not quite.Copy right issues, permissions which are seldom granted are involved.It is some how in our psyche as well. Bangladesh frenzy was prematurely initiated when East Pakistan map was found in somebody's drawer.Similar was the Jinahpoor episode.And lately Armed Forces Journal in America published an article doing a scenario analysis of the breakdown of state system in the middle east and showed some maps. Ordinarily no body may have given attention to such an aticle as the like of which are published rather frequently and routinely in the U.S. But because maps were published,this caught our fancy and frenzy. Thousands of photocopies were made and circulated by concerned and well-meaning individuals.

Elsewhere maps are so common and freely distributed even detailed street maps are available on the internet.They all have security issues,internal and external.Cost of abuse and user benefits are to be compared.In todays satellite imaging regime what and where is the secret.Enemy knows every thing well, It is secret for the ordinary individual. In any case security zones,unless the whole country may be in someones mind,could be removed from such data dissemination.Recently a Map of Emergency centers and camps was published in newspapers costing millions of rupees,which could have easily been done on Google Earth.It keeps media running and happy.So map phobia should go and a online real-time flood mapping system based on GIS be introduced.

Secondly the state of repair of the flood control infrastructure like Dykes and Bunds etc.In the USA Army Corps of Engineers are involved in building and even repairing major dykes and levees.Our irrigation department and officials are too corrupt ,lazy and out of sync with time in terms of knowledge,technology and practices.Because public life and property is involved ,independent monitoring arrangements of the stability and state of repair of dykes and levees should be established.Independent monitoring involving on-site examination may be farmed out to different civil engineering firms in the private sector.However a database of the Bund and Dykes be maintained by FFC.The data base should contain all the technical data and civil inspection summaries on these facilities.A GIS of the data can be created on Google Earth and later on a dedicated network eventually.Actual major maintenance be entrusted to Pakistan Army or FWO.

Some kind of Flood Insurance scheme may also be introduced ,where in both private and public resources may go in,so that a long term saving and resource arrangement takes care of such emergencies at least partly and we are not totally dependent on emergency foreign aid and philanthropy for ever.A lot of commercial structures like grid stations,transmission towers and mobile communication assets have also suffered significant loss.Flood insurance would also force some standardization and regularity in the flood regime.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Floods forecasts and Emergency preparedness

In Yesterdays "Dawn" daily,a statement of Mr. Zarrar Aslam,Chairman Flood Commission, was carried and I quote a part of it here:Pakistan Meteorological Department had issued an advisory as early as June 21 about the emerging flood situation and three separate meetings were held at the Armed Forces General Headquarter(GHQ),National Disaster Management Association(NDMA) and the Ministry of Water and Power between June 28 and July 28 had governments and relevant agencies into confidence about possible dangers and preparedness.The PMD had very clearly forecast" very very heavy rainfall" well in time.

Following deductions are obvious from this statement:
Unless the language used by the Flood Commissioner was deliberately kept non-technical for the public," very very heavy rainfall" is too vague and "taking into confidence" too informal.There are two possibilities either the forecast was not taken seriously as it might have been taken as other forecasts such as of our intelligence agencies which routinely forecast trouble in order to save their skin.The other is and which appears to be the most probable is that Disaster Management protocols have yet not been formalized under which clear statements have to be issued in formal and technical language and made public and under which certain management measures on the part of various bodies become mandatory.Where the room for government discretion and vague procedures such as "taking into confidence" is not there.

Public came to know about the floods almost when these finally occurred .Had people been informed they could have taken some measures to protect their life and property.Administrative and social networks and NGOs could have had a premonition and they would have mobilized themselves and thus the loss to life and property could have been minimized and lesser human misery would have been endured.In other countries government and its departments would be sued by the public,corporations and insurance agencies.

Information Minister Mr.Qamaruzzaman Kaira had earlier in a press briefing had also announced that government would undertake a review of what happened and where the problems were.The focal agency in this respect is NDMA which should accept responsibility.It is the job of this agency to suggest and get lacunae removed and developed SOPs not only for its own internal working which it might already have done ,but for over all and administrative machinery .Even an act of Parliament may be required to bring such mandatory SOPs under the ambit of law, minimizing discretion and preventing inaction.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Flood victims:Emergency support vs sustainability

Charpai has emerged as a very versatile and survivable asset of the flood victims.Many flood victims have used it as a boat and have improvised it to transport themselves through comparatively long distances.Chapai is a usual site around flood victims temporary settlement.They use the Charpai in the day as a cover from the sun and at night sleep on those.It doesnt get dirty. Normally one doesnt require any extra bedding material.Charpai has survived.Victims could bring it with them and can take it back along with them when they return to their towns and villages.It is an ideal device for summers providing enough ventilation. And philanthropists may consider including Charpais and other sustainable items in their aid to the victims.Obviously Food,water and medicine is usually the priority.

Toilets and Hygiene is a very big issue in floods.People relieve themselves in water or nearby .Water gets contaminated and is rendered not drinkable.Thus drinking water is to be provided despite the ironical water abundance around.Bottled water is often provided due to its transportation and distribution ease. Low cost hygienic Toilets can be provided relatively cheaply for communal common purposes. Women and girls suffer more than men and boys on the account of lack of toilets due to privacy reasons.Toilets should be of sustainable/survivable construction,so as to be incorporated in the ultimate dwellings of the victims.It is important that people do not relieve themselves at any convenient location,but should be required to do so at designated places where cover,water and shit-pot is provided.There are many creative solutions which we have discussed elsewhere.Used plastic containers of chemicals and batteries could be bought or acquired from SherShahs.Otherwise a steel box of adequate size(15x24x12 inches) of riveted construction with handle and possibly legs can be procured in abundance from local market.Again this is survivable and can be incorporated in later day toilets in the dwellings ultimately.

Containerized Reverse Osmosis plants could be handy and effective and could be installed where electricity is available.One plant per tehsil may be sufficient and could meet cooking and drinking needs.When emergency is over,these can go back to the donor agency for use elsewhere or redeployed in far -off deserving areas where it may be required on a routine basis.Such plants can be even rented or acquired on lease.And a good supply may always be available in traditional global markets.

Pots and pans for kitchen and water storage are also highly survivable and a good gift for the flood victims which they could incorporate in their homes when they return.Most of them may not recover whatever little they had in their houses when they return to salvage their household items.TV channels are reporting that if food somehow becomes availabe ,they are short of pots and pans,which may also result in food wastage.

Floods:Emergency Shelter and Toilets (continued)

Emergency Toilets: In my earlier blog , I proposed and discussed a plastic bucket based toilet with a seat and cover.Its main draw back is that heavier people may break it under their weight. And that it may not be liked under local cultural practices in the rural areas.Its more hygienic with its plastic film sack,and may be preferred by more organised and hygienic persons among the flood victims.

An alternative concept is of a classical plat form consisting of two or more bricks allowing the user to sit in a classical toilet position.A steel box is provided as a receptor for shitting.The box is to be !5 inch wide,24 inch in length and 12 inch deep,made of steel sheet preferably galvanized of 1 mm thickness ,of riveted construction and with two handles at the opposite end and possibly four legs of 3 inch height.It is normally fabricated by hand by the classical Balti/bucket makers,and should be widely available locally.A good sturdy one may cost as much as 500-600 Rupees.It can be a part of the victims ultimate toilet in their permanent dwellings in the rural area.The steel box is to be removed ,contents emptied in a nearby disposal pit which can be used as a bio-gas producer if the NGO is more scientifically inclined and staffed.

Another brick platform is required for washing with water.It is to be adjacent with the main one where one shifts after relieving himself.The user carries a lota filled outside with water.One may provide a utensil almost similar to the refuse one described earlier.This may have an outlet for water and a plastic hose pipe of a few meters.

A toilet room 5 to 6 ft wide,4ft deep and 7 ft high has to be made.It has two parts.Structure and the cover.Structure may be made of split bamboos,standard wooden longs,steel strip or pipe frame.68-80 ft lengths of this material wood be required.The cover could also be of a wide variety of materials like wooden veneer,ply wood ,hardboard(gutta),kraft paper used in cement bags,fabric,canvas,plastic film and sheet.A more permanent and sturdy and re-usable covering could be of corrugated steel sheets,which may however require a more sturdy and costly frame/structure. The room may be open in the top and curtains provided as a door and cover as well.Only pre-cut and ready to assemble material should be provided along with a set of tools like hammer,saw,chisel, screws,bolts or nails as the design may be.We will provide working drawings and may provide a volunteer supervisor,all free of cost by volunteers..Local skills and workers are normally available who if provided the material can assemble the precut material.A truck can possibly transport material for 20-25 toilets.An itemized budget on EXCELL would be posted in a while.Volunteers may offer their support or input into this estimating and procurement details.There are two very knowledgeable and helpful friends Mr. Anees and Mr.Ejaz Malik who would be more than willing to offer advice and support.Their contact numbers would also be provided after taking their consent.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Floods:Emergency Shelters and toilets concept and costs

In the following ,I have provided a concept paper for the guidance of NGOs and Philanthropist who may be intending to provide shelter and toilet facilities to the flood victims.

1)Ideal temporary shelter is Canvas/tarpaulin tents.Pakistan has a large industrial sector making these.However production rates and inventory may be a problem.Other sources could be India And China.You can budget 250 USD per tent.Go to Alibaba trade portal for suppliers.prices and specs.Many suppliers are UN approved.Charpais may prove to be the best bet.Should be locally available.I guess 20 USD per piece without bedding or cotton sheet.Foam mattresses are another solution and may cost 30 Usd per.
2)There is a great hygiene problem ,especially for women.A room of 6 ft*10 ft and 6 ft high made of corrugated sheets mounted on wooden masts would require 200 sq.ft of steel sheets costing about 1 USD per sq.ft plus some 100 ft wooden logs,may be tree branches or standard panelling wood @Rs 25/- per ft.This is a transportable structure and could be installed in the settled places after the emergency is over.

3)Temporary toilets:Soaking pits could be dug,and that is why we have provided relatively large space for the toilet.Otherwise a more hygienic arrangement would be A large plastic bucket normally used in Pakistani kitchens as waste basket and also water basket.Adequate local supplies should be available.Matching toilet seats may have to be selected from the market ,again a standard sanitary item.If orders are large ,say 1000 sets,made to order buckets with toilet seats could be procured in 15 days.Also waste plastic Thelis would have to be provided in good quantities may be 4 pcs per day.Thelis are to be worn internally into the buckets.The contents may be removed by taking the theli off and disposed in a pit.One such toilet per 6-8 families may be budgetted.For those with lesser budgets and more intended outreach,only bucket-toilet and water bucket with lota could be appropriate.
4)Water buckets preferably steel water filters and lotas are all locally available.Consideration may be given for providing toilet roles as well.A whole set of these items would total Rs 1200/-per.
5)Kitchen utensils another Rs1500/- per set.
6) Cooking Stove:Where burning wood is not available , a small LPG cylinder with a stove would not cost more than Rs 2000/- per .These can be transported to the ultimate permanent dwelling.Infact most of the items except Tent are useable in standard rural situations.

I would be checking and confirming on these prices tomorrow and provide a more precise budget on EXCELL sheet in one or two days.
Akhtar Ali