During this unusually erratic monsoon season, the torrential floods have wrecked havoc on the the most marginalised and deprived people of Damaan, specifically the region lying between the Suleiman mountain range and the Indus river. This area comprises of Dera Ismail Khan and Dera Ghazi Khan Division. Dozens of big, medium and small hill torrents from the Suleiman range flow from this region and drain into the Indus river.
The Suleiman Range and Damaan region have received record rainfall and many hill torrents exceeded the past record of peak flood flows. For example, the maximum peak flood in Sanghar hill torrent in Taunsa was recorded 125,000 cusecs in 1977. However, a few days ago, the same hill torrent received 268,000 cusecs of flood water – more than double of the past record.
At one point, these hill torrents were the source of irrigation and soil enrichment in the region and the locals would pray for them. These hill torrents were manageable as medium flood flows and they were subsequently collected as ponds in large fields for the cultivation of a variety of traditional crops such as sorghum and millet. In the case of big flows, while some damage would take place, the water would eventually drain into the Indus river. This traditional system of managing flood flows of hill torrents was an example of the adoption of regional topography and hydrology to maximise the benefits in form of spate irrigation as well as minimising flood damages.
Today, the main harm has been inflicted due to the massive disruptions in the natural historical drainage of the region brought on by ill conceived and poorly designed infrastructure. These disruptions are in the forms of numerous canals, roads and other infrastructure, all of which has destroyed the natural drainage which has not only compounded the flood situation but greatly magnified the scale of destruction.
Half a million people in the Damaan region have been affected by these violent, flash floods.
As a result, half a million people in the Damaan region have been affected by these violent, flash floods and left in a miserable state. For example in Taunsa Tehsil, more than 75 villages of have been completely submerged in flood water, thousands of houses destroyed, animals killed and crops standing in vast tract completely washed out. The region is already ranked highest in poverty and deprivation index. The recent torrential floods proved the last nail in the coffin.
The ground realities are extremely disturbing. The provincial government has although declared the area as calamity hit but practically speaking, it is merely an official announcement without any significant relief action. The only official action is the repeated announcements of officials to ask local people to evacuate the flooded region and move to safe places.
The ground realities are extremely disturbing. The only official action is the repeated announcements of officials to ask local people to evacuate the flooded region and move to safe places.
In reality the evacuations of local residents from vulnerable areas are being done by the locals themselves.
The affected people are dependent upon the collection of local funds and are trying to build temporary embankments in the way of floods with the help of local machinery. Dry rations are still out of sight and both the NDMA and PDMA are providing few tents to only those villages which are easily approachable. No relief camps have been established and medical assistance is out of reach from thousands of victims.
No relief organisations have arrived in the badly affected areas. The estrangement of provincial government is evident by the fact that student exams have not been cancelled despite the fact that the area is notified as calamity-hit and a state of emergency has been declared.
The sheer lack of the coverage of the miseries and sufferings of the flood affected region by the so called national media is evident of the apathy shown to the Saraiki wasaib and by association, to this still unfolding human tragedy. While the power struggle in both the centre and province of Punjab is the major agenda of national media, the cries of suffering from Saraiki wasaib are totally unheard and unacknowledged.
The present devastating floods coupled with state negligence are bound to increase the already prevalent feelings of marginality and deprivation of the region. In turn this will act as a catalyst to enhance the demand for political and administrative autonomy and regional self-rule. Many challenges lie ahead in near future.