July 22, 2013
There must be a disconnect somewhere. Or perhaps the government has not properly understood its duties. After all, there are monsoon rains every year, so the government should know what it has to do. Thus the reports which appear in the press, as they did on Sunday, of deaths and flooding in urban areas, are entirely avoidable. While no one was killed in Lahore, water was trapped in various areas, causing traffic to jam and electricity feeders to trip, because of which power dropped for hours. However, those killed fell victim to roof collapses, something which would be avoidable if buildings had been duly inspected. The monsoon is generally over by end-September, and will not be back for another nine months. This should provide enough time for an inspection of the province’s buildings.
Another problem that needs proper handling is that of flooding in low-lying areas. While the improvement brought about by building roads and flyovers is welcome, not to mention the modern mass transit system that is the Metro Bus System, one consideration that seems to have been neglected, which is what is supposed to be done with flood water. Not only is it important that there be a place to which it can be drained, but there must also be a path for its drainage. If that path is provided, then water will not be left to flood congested city areas which would only go away by evaporation. The city’s civic agencies would surely have a sufficiency of experts sufficiently well versed in the matter to ensure that there is proper drainage even after new construction. The essence of the function of civic agencies should be to provide proper guidance to officials, elected or unelected, who have to take decisions affecting the city’s road network. No one wants the odium that inevitably attaches to stagnant rainwater that the city seems condemned to suffer after every monsoon rain, season after season.
The government’s inability to deal with a foreseen problem throws into doubt its ability to deal with the unforeseen. The government should also keep in mind that the goodwill it earns from revamping the city’s road network will be lost if the city is flooded by rain. The government must also prepare an inspection plan, so that it can deal with an issue that appears more of a problem outside Lahore, that of building collapses due to the rain. Disasters averted may not be as flashy an achievement as road construction, but more lives will be saved.