ISLAMABAD: There is no likelihood of a major threat to life and property arising out of upcoming monsoon floods this year owing to more than 13 million acre feet (MAF) of capacity available in dams to absorb regional waters from upstream flooding.
This was the crux of an annual coordination session of the federal and provincial authorities held on Wednesday to review preparedness for flood protection.
The meeting presided over by caretaker Minister for Water Resources Syed Ali Zafar, however, noted with concern an anticipated precariousness of water availability not only during the current Kharif season but also the next Rabi cropping season.
It was reported that irrigation water was a serious challenge during the remaining period of the current season ending September and crops would have to be dependent mostly on run-of-the-river flows. The meeting was also informed that even though the early part of monsoon would witness slightly above normal or normal rains, the later part would see lower than normal rainfall.
Country’s water storage falls from 6.8MAF last year to 0.8MAF this year
It was also evident from the fact that the country had water storage of more than 6.8MAF last year in these days compared to almost nine times lower storage of about 0.8MAF this year. Therefore, it is very unlikely that dams will be filled to capacity and may cause larger challenges to Rabi crops. The country has a total storage capacity of about 13.7MAF.
The meeting expressed dissatisfaction over the fact that the provincial governments had been unable to complete their flood protection schemes this year for various reasons. The provincial governments blamed the federal authorities for creating funding constraints.
The meeting, attended by the water resources secretary, chief engineering adviser and senior officials of the federal and provincial government organisations, including the armed forces and disaster management departments, discussed seasonal outlook issued by the Pakistan Meteorological Department for monsoon season 2018. It forecast normal to slightly above-normal rainfall in the first half and below normal rainfall in the second half of monsoon.
All the stakeholders briefed the meeting on pre-emptive measures taken to minimise the effects of damages in the event of occurrence of floods. The water resources minister directed the regional and provincial disaster management authorities to remain vigilant throughout the monsoon season.
A representative of the Engineers Directorate, GHQ Rawalpindi, assured the meeting that they were vigilant and ready to operate in emergency situation in case of high floods.
The dam management authorities shared standard operating procedures of Mangla and Tarbela dams and arrangements made for flood flows a regulation in case of high flood flows.
The Wapda chief engineer reported that all flood telemetry stations were fully operational and transmitting data to the stakeholders concerned.
In view of forecast of rains and expected urban flooding, the provinces were asked to be vigilant and clear storm drains in cities and towns. The minister asked the relevant authorities to remove the encroachments restricting free flood flows of rivers.
The meeting was told that around Rs400 million released by the Centre during previous years to the Punjab government for execution of urgent nature flood projects was kept unspent and the latter had not completed any project relating to flood control despite availability of funds.
A representative of the irrigation department of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa informed the meeting that due to a delay in release of funds by the federal government, they could not utilise the budget before close of the last financial year.
The representatives of irrigation departments of Sindh, Fata, Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Kashmir complained that they were getting very meager budgets under the PSDP and, therefore, unable to complete the urgent nature flood works last year.
The minister expressed concern over the delay in completion of some urgent flood protection projects being executed through the PSDP and asked the representatives of the provinces and tribal areas to make efforts to complete under-construction projects so as to make them safe against floods and ensure protection of adjoining settlements and private and public property.
Published in Dawn, July 5th, 2018