Pakistan floods rival earthquakes, tsunamis in severity

Flood waters cover the area near the border of Sindh and Balochistan.
Flood waters cover the area near the border of Sindh and Balochistan. Photo: Salman Siddiqui

Abdul Haque Chang is a Fulbright Scholar and graduate student in the Department of Anthropology. He's working on the issue of governance of water resources management in Pakistan. His major focus is to bring an ethnographic perspective to the issue of waste, scarcity and abundance of water resources management according to different strata of society.

No one could imagine that the water-deprived, thirsty land of Pakistan would see massive devastation due to an excess of water rather than a lack of it. The flood came like an unstoppable alien invasion, wrecking all that stood in its way.

It not just shocked, but terrified the people of Pakistan, who were already going through serious economic problems. Many are still going through the trauma.

The image of displaced people that was spread by electronic and print media haunted people's imagination about rural areas. The countryside was no longer a scenic rustic locale, unspoiled by modern science and inhabited by friendly, hospitable people. Now, we see everywhere just water and long lines of people moving on roads with their water buffaloes, goats, sheep and other minimal belongs they were able to save amid the disaster.

According to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon the level of this disaster is higher than the Haiti earthquake, the 2004 Asia tsunami and the 2005 Pakistan earthquake combined. He said this is a slow "tsunami."

After visiting flood-affected areas in Pakistan, Ban said, "Pakistan floods are the worst disaster I've ever seen."

According to official estimates from the government of Pakistan and other sources, about 28 million people are affected, and about 10 million people are homeless. It is estimated that about 2,000 people have died in Pakistan since the flooding began. According to reports, the worst floods in the past 80 years have inundated an area the size of Italy. Landslides and flashfloods have washed away entire villages, and two million acres of farmland have been uprooted. Waterborne disease such as diarrhea and cholera threaten the victims.

Aid agencies and the government of Pakistan have declared that it will take six months to one year for people to go back to their homes and resume their normal lives. However, in the most hard hit areas such as Sindh and Baluchistan provinces, it will take more than two years to return to normalcy.

One of the reasons Sindh and Baluchistan have been affected the most is that when the Indus River enters Sindh it becomes a mighty river, and in superfloods it overflows into canals and the water goes to nearby areas.

According to the government of Sindh, more than 10 million people are living in camps after their homes flooded. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Sindh and Baluchistan provinces have not only been ignored by national and international media, but these areas have not been provided with enough help by aid agencies, and people are living in miserable conditions.

I want to request that University of Texas at Austin faculty, students and staff please come forward to help these people at this critical time in history. Even a little help can save many lives.

I also want to request that the university's president, the governor of Texas and the president of the United States of America help these people and create a program providing scholarships to students from the most affected areas of Sindh and Baluchistan.

We have an example in the Bush/Clinton Fulbright Tsunami Relief Initiative Master's Degree program created for the students of Aceh, Indonesia, after the 2004 Asian tsunami. This program helped hundreds of students study in the U.S. and, after completion of their degrees, they went back to play important roles in rebuilding Aceh.

It is my wish that such serious efforts may also be taken to help the worst hit areas in Pakistan.