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.

1 comment:

  1. These are potentially strong suggestions that if implemented may prove to be succesful and help mitigate when the next flood occurs, and surely it will occur. Akhtar, do you happen to know of specific towns/cities that need immidiate help in terms of planning and zoning in PUNJAB?