The floods are wreaking havoc on the economic and social fabric of the country. Millions of people have been displaced and the livelihoods of several millions are at stake. The land which is under water is the prime source of agricultural produce and home to major industries of the country.
Apparently, it seems we have not learnt any lesson from the past. The missing links in policy and implementation plans are still missing after four years of the 2010 flood. Reports by flood commissions are gathering dust in the shelves and the government is giving lame excuses as to why the reports are not being attended to. Institutional capacity is still a grave concern despite the fact that the commission recommended a strengthening of institutions.
The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) and the Federal Flood Commission are two main bodies at the federal level to tackle floods. The flood commission is facing serious problems of financial and human resources. The capacity and capability of the flood commission has been eroded and all governments remained consistent in ignoring the flood commission. The flood commission has been turned to talk shop for discussing flood management and suggesting policies but there are no serious efforts to combat the challenges at the ground level.
The NDMA is another national authority which was created to prevent, mitigate and respond to disasters, including flood. The NDMA has always been a prime agency for governments for combating disasters since its creation. The NDMA has attracted a decent amount of resources from all governments and is working on building the capacity of its staff. However, the authority is still lagging behind from its stated objectives and responsibilities.
First of all, the top management always belongs to bureaucrats instead of experts and technical people. The technical know-how of bureaucrats is limited and therefore, they are unable to devise policies and implementation according to required standards. There is another problem associated with the involvement of bureaucrats; it creates hindrance to the development of capacity of the NDMA, because bureaucrats move frequently from one post and ministry to another post and ministry.
The NDMA and flood commissions are highly centralised in terms of decision-making and disbursing of financial resources. Although the NDMA is expanding its base to district level, financial and decision-making autonomy is very weak and low. The centralisation of the NDMA and the flood commission is a real problem. Weak infrastructure and institutional setup, limited to the district level, further weakens the capacity of districts to combat the challenge. The NDMA, in 2013, worked on the Monsoon Contingency Plan and organised a series of workshops for capacity-building and raising awareness.
These workshops were aimed at instilling awareness in policymakers but the common people were left without any help or way forward. Moreover, district management structure remained the same. The district management structure is key to combating the challenge of flood and other disasters. Decentralisation can help us make timely decisions and divert essential financial resources.
Apart from this, an empowered district management structure can also help develop a long-term plan for districts by keeping in mind geography of districts. It will help to identify the safe places and evacuation plans during emergencies and disasters. District management will be in a better place to negotiate and plan to mitigate impacts of disasters due to their presence in districts and close interaction with local people.
A quick glance at the work done by the NDMA tells us there are a good number of policy documents and implementation plans. The most relevant policy to the current scenario is the Monsoon Contingency Plan. The plan was designed to address the issue of flood. However, the present floods suggest that this plan could not help to tackle the crises. Although the meteorological department predicted that there would be a spill of erratic rain. The government, including the flood commission and the NDMA, could not prepare to respond to the challenge.
Another dimension to the issue is climate change and its role in flood. Everyone talks about the impact on climate change in relation to flood but there is no seriousness about combating the challenge of climate change. Institutional framework is in pathetic form and the Ministry of Climate Change had been shrunk into a division. There is no minster and for some time, it has only had a part-time secretary. Financial resources are extremely low and there is no willingness on the part of the government to enhance the capacity or provide human resource.
Constitutional amendments in 2011 further weakened the efforts to combat climate change impacts. After the Eighteenth Amendment, the ministry of environment was devolved, then the ministry of national disaster management was created and climate change became an affiliated department. After a strong voice from civil society, a ministry of climate change was created once again. The present government reversed the decision and the ministry has shrunk to the status of a division.
The government claims there is no need for a full-fledged ministry, as climate change or environment can be dealt with a division. The government needs to understand that climate change is not merely an environmental issue. It is development issue, it is issue of livelihood, it issue of national security and most importantly, it is the issue of human security. The present floods’ impacts on crops, livestock, infrastructure and industry tell the story of its relevance to economy. The government should take climate change seriously and revisit the decision of devolution of the ministry and a full-fledged ministry should be created at the national level. The ministry should have the mandate to develop a national adaptation plan and for its implementation. An adaptation plan is crucial to combating the challenges of climate change because it allows to plan against the unknown. To accomplish the task, the government should provide the necessary financial resources to the ministry of climate change. Moreover, the government should also invest in development of quality human resource, which is necessary to combating the challenge of climate change.
However, the current scenario and activities of the government tell another story. The government does not seem serious about tackling the issue on a permanent basis rather, the government taking the natural disaster as a photo-op. The best performance of government ministers can be watched on talk shows. It looks like those ministers have a talk show competition to take as much as possible time on talk shows rather than to spend time to plan for long-term policy. I fear if the negligence continues, this natural disaster can turn into a human disaster. So there is the need for focused and timely efforts from the government, otherwise if a disaster strikes the government will be running from here to there without any solution.