Some politicians and officials have attributed the flood disaster to unregulated construction and development on river banks. As reported by Dawn, these politicians and officials — including the federal agriculture minister and the Federal Flood Commission chairman — say that widespread settlement build-up and construction along the river banks and even on dried-up riverbeds across the country had blocked the natural course of the rivers.
This explanation for the floods is corroborated by the UN’s International Strategy for Disaster Reduction. Its director says that the scale of the disaster would have been less had there been no human settlements on the river banks. The focus must be on what needs to be done to prevent future flooding calamities: governments and communities should address the vulnerability of human settlements and prevent construction on riverbeds and banks, especially in the rehabilitation process for the flood-affected people.
If the 2005 earthquake was a lesson for us to minimise human casualties through building codes and seismic zoning, the current floods should highlight the necessity for flood-plain zoning and codes. Flood-plain regulations comprise a major tool in flood-management policies in many countries. Yet we, a flood-prone nation, lack a zoning policy that defines areas within the flood plains that are suitable for human settlement, agriculture production, etc. Such a zoning policy for major rivers was supposed to have been developed and appropriate legislation introduced to implement the policy under our Second Flood Protection Sector Project (2000-2007). But the policy was not formulated because of social and political concerns. It is easier to implement a flood-zoning policy now that we are starting with a clean slate on the flood plains. Without such flood regulations, the best forecasting and warning systems and the strongest flood-proofing barriers and dykes would be of little use in protecting the life and property of millions.