5 Long-Term Effects of Pakistan Floods

Damaged infrastructure, weakened trust, and worse

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After weeks of flooding in Pakistan displaced two million people and left more than 10 million at risk of disease outbreak because they lack access to clean water, renewed flooding in Pakistan has displaced an additional one million people over the past 48 hours alone, setting back a relief effort that has struggled due to paltry donations. The displaced, often physically inaccessible to relief workers due to Pakistan's badly damaged infrastructure, face threats of disease, starvation, and dehydration. But even once the immediate humanitarian crises of the flood pass, experts say the floods will leave their impact on Pakistan and the region for years or decades.

  • Lost Infrastructure Sets Pakistan Back Years  The New York Times' Carlotta Gall writes, "The destruction could set Pakistan back many years, if not decades, further weaken its feeble civilian administration and add to the burdens on its military. It seems certain to distract from American requests for Pakistan to battle Taliban insurgents, who threatened foreign aid workers delivering flood relief on Thursday. It is already disrupting vital supply lines to American forces in Afghanistan. The flooding, which began with the arrival of the annual monsoons late last month, has by now affected about one-fifth of the country — nearly 62,000 square miles — or an area larger than England, according to the United Nations."
  • Rumors That Gov't Controlled Flooding Worsen Mistrust  The Economist presents unverifiable but extremely disturbing rumors that, simply by circulating and regardless of their veracity, will worsen the already deep mistrust and hatred in Pakistan of the government. "Overall 1.2m homes have been damaged or destroyed. Some 800,000 people remain cut off from all help. Even where the government or aid agencies are present, the help is patchy at best, with many left to fend for themselves. Now dark (and plausible) accusations are circulating: the well-connected chose which areas were purposefully flooded to relieve pressure elsewhere; aid is being diverted to constituencies of powerful figures; woefully feeble flood-protection infrastructure was left badly maintained."
  • Devastated Agriculture Will Cause Years of Food Shortage  The Economist reports, "Hunger may prove to be a bigger problem. An estimated 23% of the year’s harvest was washed away, including a quarter of the cotton crop, which matters to the economy. About 2.6m acres of cultivated land have been drowned, says Pakistan’s National Disaster Management Authority. Officials say that the rehabilitation will take three years, barring more floods. Food inflation will hurt even the driest of the poor."
  • Taliban May Turn Against Humanitarian Workers  While some militant groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba have actively participated in recovery, the Associated Press' Shakil Adil reports that Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, sometimes called the "Pakistani Taliban," may exploit this as an opportunity to attack Western aid workers. "The Pakistani Taliban on Thursday hinted they might attack the foreign aid workers. The militant network has a history of attacking aid groups, including agencies under the U.N. umbrella. Militant spokesman Azam Tariq said the U.S. and other countries were not really focused on providing aid to flood victims but had other motives he did not specify."
  • This Flood Makes Pakistan More Susceptible to Future Floods  Foreign Policy's Ahmad Rafay Alam explains that, the worse the damage from this year's round of seasonal flooding, the worse next year will be. "Pakistan is already feeling the effects of climate change, and one of the effects climate change brings is unexpected precipitation events. Of course, it's not all climate change. Overdevelopment and the timber business, especially in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, have devastated watershed areas and make it much easier for water to flow down mountain and hillsides and create flash floods. I don't know of Pakistan having any infrastructure to "prevent or alleviate" flooding. There are laws prohibiting the felling of trees for the timber industry, but they operate only within defined forest areas. We're not really doing anything about overdevelopment and the destruction of forest cover and watershed areas, so in the future we are going to see more of these tragic natural disasters."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.