Pakistan: Floodplain management solution to devastating flood losses
WWF-Pakistan raised serious concerns over the increased frequency of massive floods and urged the government to reduce the impacts of environmental hazards through better management of floodplains.
Encroachments on floodplains for agricultural purposes and housing settlements are regarded as the main reasons for the increasing devastation caused by heavy rains and floods. Speaking on the issue, Hammad Naqi Khan, Director General, WWF-Pakistan called for a collective action to mitigate environmental hazards with thorough planning which includes strict policymaking to avoid any sort of development which may threaten the balance of nature.
It is worth noting that WWF-Pakistan has shared recommendations with the government from time to time on effective measures to mitigate floods by strengthening the Disaster Risk Reduction strategy - DRR. Due to lack of awareness about the causes of heavy rains and flooding, agricultural land and property is heavily damaged, leading to a huge loss to the national economy.
Managing the rivers to minimize the impacts from annual floods is essential to ensure the long-term survival of communities living near rivers and mainstreams. Following the floods of 2010, the Ministry of Climate Change requested the Secretariat of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands to organize an expert team under the Convention’s Ramsar Advisory Mission (RAM) mechanism, to visit the wetlands along the Indus River floodplains and share its recommendations. The RAM visit aimed to a) devise a workable and cost effective strategy for wise-use of the floods, b) make recommendations for alteration in the prevailing flood control strategy to obtain maximum benefit from the floodwater and c)identify high priority wetlands/Ramsar Sites for restoration by using the floods as a tool for restoration. The mission highlighted the need to establish a broad-based coordinating authority for the sustainable management of the Indus River Basin and the need for an integrated approach to floodplain management.
A Judicial Flood Inquiry Tribunal Report, published in 2010 following the floods of the same year, also highlighted the need to set up and effectively manage a floodplain management plan. It also recommended the mapping of the plain area and the creation of wildlife sanctuaries to regulate and protect the environment of riverine areas.
In order to mitigate the impacts of extreme weathering events, floodplain management including restoration and management of ponds and lakes for floodwater storage will also help in biodiversity conservation. This year’s flood on Pakistan’s eastern rivers again gave an important message for better management practices through collective action.
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