September 6th, 2020

By Umar Bacha


SHANGLA

Parveen Bibi, a resident of Shalmano Bailay Baba, Shangla, was living in a two-room mud house when torrential rains robbed her of her shelter. Parveen a mother of four had already sensed that her dilapidated house would not be able to survive another night of heavy rains and so she wisely decided to spend the night at her neighbor’s house. But in the middle of the night, a loud noise woke her up and she ran towards her house only to find out that her worst fears had come true. her home was buried under piles of mud thanks to land sliding.

“Our house was already in a very poor condition…water used to pour down from the roof when it rained,” says Parveen. “I had to collect alms from the people of our area to build this house in the first place. Now I have lost everything. But I am glad that I decided to take my children and spend the night at my neighbors, for at least we are safe.” Parveen, a widow, has little source of income and so must now rely on government welfare to a large extent.”We are homeless now and we have no place to stay. The government has not provided us with anything so far,” says the devastated woman.

Several areas of northern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa including, Shangla, Swat, Kohistan, Chitral, Batgram, Torghar, and Buner have seen a lot of damage from heavy rains and urban flooding since last week. According to the Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA), 50 people have died so far as a result of the flooding.

“Tougher never did have a pristine road network, but this rain has completely cut us off from the outside world,” laments Imran Yousafzai, a resident of the area. “If the government does not clear the roads on an urgent basis there will be acute food shortages in the area.”

“The only main road of the area has been closed off as a result of the flooding because of which business activities in the area have come to a complete halt,” says Hafiz-ur-Rehman, a resident of the Kandia region of Upper Kohistan. “Additionally, large swathes of cultivated land have come under water destroying the livelihood of farmers. On top of this, there are reports of the drowning of an 18-year-old girl in this area. The situation has become extremely dire.”

Flooding has damaged critical infrastructure like turbines, roads, and bridges severely hampering daily lives in the area.

“Flash floods have destroyed many water turbines and generators cutting off the supply of electricity to the area. Residents of my area, Shahpur, have been using generators to produce some electricity but all in all, people are suffering badly due to a lack of power,” says Sher Hussain.

Meanwhile, provincial authorities have begun some sort of relief effort in the affected areas. Authorities have been providing tents and other necessary items to the people worst hit by the flooding.

“These rains have spared no one,”  says Wajid Ali, District Disaster Management Officer, Shangla. “Every resident of our area has been impacted by the flooding to some extent. We have documented that approximately 90 houses have been destroyed so far and several school buildings have also been damaged. Right now all these figures are tentative but we have started collecting concrete figures as well.”

Northern KP was hit by severe rainfall and consequent flooding twice before in 2010 and 2016, bringing devastation to the area. But it can be traced back to man-made causes that have caused such terrible impacts.

“Excessive de-forestation and cutting off of mountains have robbed the soil of its integrity,” says Sayed Wasim, a disaster management expert. “The soil has loosened and when there is rainfall the land becomes prone to severe land sliding.”

Several key roads, bridges, and transit points have been closed for traffic owing to severe rainfall. Road closures have impeded the supply of food and medicines to many areas creating serious shortages. Apart from that people are facing immense difficulties in transporting the injured to hospitals.

As life in these regions comes to a halt, there is no sign of the current spell of rain giving way.

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