Post-disaster recovery transition lessons from the 2010 floods in Pakistan

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In 2010 severe flooding hit Pakistan, inundating about 37 thousand square kilometres of the nation’s area.

Over 20 million people were affected; the number is higher than those affected by the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami, 2005 Cyclone Katrina, or the 2008 cyclone Nargis in Myanmar.

The total loss from these massive floods totalled US$10.4 billion, or 5.7% of Pakistan’s GDP.  After the flooding event, the rescue and relief activities lasted up to 8 months, which began in July 2010 until the end of March 2011.  

Sindh province was one of the most affected by this event; out of the 20 million affected, 7.3 million residents were from the Sindh province. Sadly for them, the post-recovery after this unprecedented flood stopped at the rescue and relief phase.

According to the study, there was no recovery and reconstruction authority established in the province after the flooding incident – a task that belongs to Pakistan’s National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA).

Although the institution was lauded for its well-coordinated emergency phase efforts, the recovery and reconstruction phase efforts were missing in the province.

Using Pakistan’s worst flooding in 2010 as a case study, researchers examined the disaster recovery activities after the flood. They highlighted the factors that hinder the transitions to recovery phases in Pakistan, which may also be true in other developing countries.

The three Post-Disaster Recovery (PDR) phases in the study are the following –

  1. relief phase, which is meeting the most immediate needs of the community following a disaster,
  2. rehabilitation phase or the restoration of basic service and facilities to make communities and societies function; this includes providing temporary housing or shelter, mass feeding, treatment of the injured etc. and lastly,
  3. the recovery phase is also termed as the long-term phase wherein major reconstruction, development, and capacity building through structural or non-structural measures occur.

Other PDR phase model like the one proposed by Haast and others shows 4 overlapping phases – emergency, restoration, reconstruction 1, and reconstruction 2, which is similar to the UNDRR model. These PDR models are thoroughly discussed in the study.

According to the study, the Post-Disaster Recovery (PDR) in developing countries is limited to the relief and rescue operations, thus failing to transition to subsequent phases like rehabilitation, restoration, and recovery, leading to a full and long-term recovery of a community.

The study finds that the post-disaster recovery in Sindh after the 2010 floods failed to transition to the long-term recovery phase.

The factors that hindered these transitions include the following:

  • The lack of community-level involvement – the state and relevant institutions failed to place communities at the centre of the recovery process,
  • Inadequate coping capacity, resource and skills of both the community and local administration which will impede their long-term recovery actions,
  • Absence of any recovery and reconstruction authority after the flood
  • No coherence or coordination in the PDR activities among stakeholders led to confusion between stakeholders and hindered the smooth transition of recovery, and
  • Lack of information and data among local administration and stakeholders led to politically motivating projects and aid distributions.

Through a better understanding of the smooth transition of the various phases of the PDR, the study can help policymakers and disaster management practitioners plan and implement effective PDR strategies, especially in developing countries that are most vulnerable to climate-related and natural disasters.

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Hazards Flood
Themes Recovery
Country and region Pakistan
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