Sindh Human Rights Commission (SHRC) Launches Research Paper on Flood Rehabilitation

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Speakers alarmed over heavy rains forecasts during 2024 Monsoon

KARACHI, June 6: At the launch of the research paper titled “Rights of People and State of Flood Rehabilitation in Sindh,” speakers emphasized the urgent need for precautionary measures ahead of this year’s monsoon season. The Meteorological Office has indicated that Southern Pakistan may receive heavy rains comparable to the 2022 deluge, which caused devastating floods in Sindh, Balochistan, and Southern Punjab.

The Sindh Human Rights Commission (SHRC) organized the report launch and a panel discussion at a local hotel on Thursday, featuring addresses by government officials, civil society activists, academics, representatives of UN and donor agencies, and environmentalists.

Sindh Minister for Rehabilitation Makhdoom Mehboob Zaman, the event’s chief guest, assured that the provincial government is making every effort to rehabilitate those affected by the 2022 floods. He noted that the Sindh government is constructing millions of houses in flood-affected areas, affirming, “Sindh government will not leave people alone.”

Chairman of the Sindh Human Rights Commission, Mr. Iqbal Detho, stated that according to the UN and the Constitution of Pakistan, flood affectees have the fundamental right to rehabilitation and must be provided with basic facilities like education, health, and safe drinking water.

Following the 2022 floods, SHRC members visited various affected districts and initiated a comprehensive study focusing on the floods in the province. Mr. Detho noted that the rural areas of Sindh were severely impacted by the 2022 floods. He emphasized SHRC’s role as a bridge between civil society and the government, committing to protecting the rights of vulnerable members of society.

Researcher Mr. Naseer Memon highlighted the extensive impact of the 2022 floods, which affected 24 districts. The research focused on the human rights of vulnerable communities including persons with disabilities, minorities, women, and children, and covered three key districts: Khairpur, Dadu, and Mirpurkhas, to provide a comprehensive cross-section of the affected areas and populations. The study involved direct communication with local communities and government officials to gather firsthand insights.

“People were actively engaged in the process, and their inputs have been incorporated into our recommendations,” said Memon. The study found that the extraordinary rains and subsequent disasters disproportionately affected women and vulnerable sections of society, who received no special consideration in the relief efforts. Many people lacked basic shelter for several days after the flood and drinking water sources remained heavily polluted.

Alarmingly, there is no comprehensive data available on the health impacts of the floods, though there were abnormally high cases of malaria and other waterborne diseases reported. The education infrastructure also suffered significantly, with 35% of girls’ schools damaged, and only half of these schools have been repaired, mostly during election periods.

While 500,000 houses have been constructed, marking a significant improvement with many being pucca houses, those displaced at the time of the floods often missed out on compensation. Moreover, one and a half years later, floodwaters still stand in parts of Khairpur district, he pointed out. Memon underscored the urgent need for District Disaster Management Authorities (DDMAs) to become more active, noting significant gaps in their current operations.

This research underscores the necessity for more robust and inclusive disaster response mechanisms to ensure that the rights and needs of all affected populations are adequately addressed.

Dr. Sardar Sarfraz, Chief Meteorologist, warned that many international weather predictions indicate more than normal rains this year.

Dr. Fatah Marri, Vice Chancellor of Sindh Agricultural University Tando Jam, emphasized the need to focus on both irrigated and arid agriculture, pointing out that the region’s agriculture faces stagnation due to changing consumption patterns and climate change.

Dr. Marri highlighted the critical need for research and development in seed development, noting a significant gap as suitable seeds are currently unavailable in Pakistan. This lack of resources hampers efforts to adapt agricultural practices to evolving environmental conditions.

Sardar Shahid Khan, a representative of the Pakistan Red Crescent Society, reported that their organization reached 2.8 million people during the 2022 floods, underscoring the disaster’s scale and the extensive relief efforts undertaken.

Mr. Qabool Khatiyan, Chairman of the Sindh Irrigation and Drainage Authority (SIDA), addressed water management issues, explaining that the Left Bank Outfall Drain (LBOD) has a capacity of only 4,000 cusecs, inadequate for handling heavy rains and floods. He raised concerns about groundwater pollution, attributing it to contamination from the River Indus, which pollutes groundwater resources.

Mustafa Talpur from Oxfam highlighted concerns regarding education, immunization, and child stunting in Sindh. He noted that adult literacy has seen a modest increase of 2 per cent over the past decade. However, he pointed out the alarming stagnation in child literacy, with zero progress over the last seven years, and a primary net enrollment rate of just half a per cent.

Senior journalist Afia Salam shared her observations from visiting relief camps during the 2022 floods. She found that many families were not receiving rehabilitation compensation and expressed concern over the lack of vulnerability mapping. Salam warned that most home reconstruction efforts are being carried out in the same vulnerable areas without addressing underlying risks.

 Other speakers included Dr Ayoub Sheikh, Zulfiqar Halepoto, Imran Khan Leghari from the UN office, Shahzado Malik, Virsa Pirzado, Noor Bajeer, Saeed Baloch, Fatima Majeed of the Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum (PFF), Kashif Siddiqui.