Pakistan: Landslide risk high in northern areas

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]
ISLAMABAD, 3 Jun 2005 (IRIN) - Pakistan's northern parts are under high risk of landsliding and flash floods as the temperature would rise in the coming days of June. The areas have received 30 percent to 40 percent above normal winter rains and snowfall earlier this year, according to meteorologists.

"Landsliding risk is significantly high in the coming summer months across the hilly terrain due to soil erosion partially as a result of heavy snowfall and frequent rains so far this year and the areas already lack forest cover," Dr Qamar-uz-Zaman, head of Pakistan's meteorological department, told IRIN in the capital, Islamabad, on Friday.

According to meteorologists, temperatures have started rising in June, which have been so far low due to intense western weather system causing frequent rains in the upper parts of the country.

"This [high temperature] will help in filling up water reservoirs through increased snowmelt but also would add to the risk of floods irrespective of the intensity of the summer monsoon rains," Zaman said.

Though officials at Pakistan's national meteorological service are reluctant to say about any estimated pattern of rainfall during coming monsoon season, the Indian weather office has already predicted the normal monsoon rains from June to September this year.

"Dwellings along the banks of the rivers and particularly those living in the riverbeds are at high risk even if a low intensity monsoon combines with snowmelt in the coming days of souring temperatures till the end of September," Shaukat Ali Awan, head of flood forecasting division of the meteorological office, told IRIN from eastern city of Lahore, capital of Punjab province.

Meanwhile, regular rainfall in the northern parts of the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) has also been hindering the relief and rehabilitation efforts in disaster-hit areas.

"The crisis has not yet ended and the victims have not yet been able to return to normal life. Main and other byroads damaged earlier this year after heavy rains, snowfall, land sliding and avalanches are yet to be repaired," Shalim Kamran, heading the disaster response unit of Pakistan branch of international humanitarian organisation, Church World Service (CWS), told IRIN from southern port city of Karachi. "Transportation of essentials is regularly being interrupted due to abrupt road conditions," he added.

As part of its rehabilitation and recovery efforts for disaster-hit areas, the NWFP provincial branch of World Health Organization (WHO) planned workshops for health officials in four districts of the province. Earlier, WHO has also provided the emergency health kits to health facilities in six districts of NWFP.

"During these workshops, the heath professionals will be trained on Disease Early Warning System that could predict an outbreak of a disease and also essential drug storage and dispensation," Dr Quaid Saeed, the WHO emergency medical officer for NWFP, told IRIN from Peshawar, capital of NWFP.

In the wake of risk of floods and land sliding, humanitarian activists emphasised the imporatnce of capacity building of local communities, who have already suffered a lot after this year's unexpected intense winter.

"It is essential, since the communities in these areas amongst the most poor and are also without any alternative livelihood sources other than their already damaged agriculture and livestock," Kamran said.


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