Pakistan: Flood relief fund in pipeline

ISLAMABAD, 20 May (IRIN) - An emergency relief fund for flooding is to be established in Pakistan, the government announced on Tuesday, following warnings of severe water incursion this year. "We have been suffering from a drought but now it's over and the meteorological office is warning of flooding this year so we need to be prepared," Public relations officer for Pakistan's Ministry of Water and Power, Abdul Akbar told IRIN in the capital, Islamabad.
"The severe drought that started in 1998 is taking its toll and this is going to have an effect on the ground as it has remained dry for so long even though we expect normal rainfall this year, there could be severe flooding," an official at the meteorological office in Islamabad told IRIN.

This is the first time such a fund has been set up, however, figures for the actual amount of money needed are still being discussed. The move follows a high level meeting in Islamabad between officials from the ministry, the country's meteorological department, the emergency relief cell division of the cabinet and the army. Last year the cabinet approved funding of US $1.5 million for flood protection.

Those areas expected to be worst hit will be the plains in the provinces of Sindh in the south, central Punjab and the North West Frontier Province (NWFP). "The fund will be established by the end of July before the flooding season starts between July and October," he added.

A network of rivers emerging form the Himalayan and Karakoram mountain ranges in northern Pakistan irrigate the fertile agricultural plains in the centre and south of the country. Experts believe that increased snowfall over the winter in these ranges could cause flooding even with normal monsoon rains.

Measures already taken include flood protection walls, totalling a length of 2,100 km in the Punjab. With 131 vulnerable places in Sindh, special arrangements have been made including stockpiling of flood prevention material.

In the NWFP, the irrigation department of the provincial government is implementing seven emergency flood prevention schemes. Pakistan has already suffered from heavy rainfall earlier this year in which 60 people reportedly died and several thousand people were made homeless in Sindh and the Punjab.


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