17 August 2010

Pakistan flood update: the Kirthar Canal

Posted by Dave Petley

The floods in Pakistan continue to extend to new areas, increasing the magnitude of the impact on a daily basis.  The PakMet hydrographs continue to show increasing flow levels.  At Guddu the discharge is still rising, and is now close to the peak level reached in the first flood wave (click on “read more” to reveal the rest of this post):

Meanwhile, as expected serious problems are developing in the area of (but so far not on) the Guddu Barrage, where the discharge is also increasing:

It appears that the second flood wave has not really reached Sukkur as yet.  However, Dawn this morning reports that: “…residents of Qubo Saeed Khan town and over 100 villages in Qambar-Shahdadkot district were asked to leave their homes on Monday after a powerful current of floodwaters gushing from Garhi Khairo and overtopping the Khirthar canal smashed five gates of the Garang regulator and washed away the entire structure.” 

The importance of Sukkur Barrage and the canal network that extends from it is described in this old Pakistan Observer article “Federal Minister for Labour and Manpowewr Syed Khursheed Ahmed Shah has said that Sukkur Barrage is the lifeline for Sindh’s agricultural economy”.  Agriculture in this area is heavily dependent upon the water delivered by this canal network; damage to these structures will represent a major problem in the future.  Note also that it is likely that the water will have carried subtantial volumes of silt, which may be deposited in the canal network.  This may need to be removed once the floods subside.  Meanwhile, the water will have destroyed a substantial part of the cotton crop, which should be harvested next month, which in turn will damage the textile industry.  Farmers would normally plant winter wheat in the autumn; the viability of this crop must also be in doubt.
Upstream, the impact of the floods and landslides in the mountains is being well-described by the Pamir Times.  The Pakistan High Commissioner in London has stated that rehabilitation will require about $15 billion of investment and a “Marshall Plan” style of approach.  It is interesting to see the UK Deputy Prime Minister describing the international response to the floods as “lamentable”.  To date the UK has committed £31 million to the Pakistan flood disaster, which to be fair is reportedly a quarter of all of the assistance pledged.  However, in comparison with the cost of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars (£20 billion over the last ten years for the UK alone), this amount is tiny.  Investing in aid to Pakistan, and being seen to be a force for good in a troubled area, would seem to be a good strategy.  Building on the Marshall Plan analogy, isn’t it time for a Berlin Airlift style aid effort?