Islamabad: Pakistan suffered its most severe floods in living history in 2010. The floods began in late July 2010, following heavy monsoon rains in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Sindh, Punjab and Baluchistan regions of Pakistan. These extra ordinary monsoon rains were described as the worst in the last 80 years. According to the Pakistan Meteorological Department, rainfall in excess of 200 mm fell in a 24-hour period over a number of places of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab. A record breaking 274 mm of rain fell in Peshawar over 24 hours, surpassing a previous record of 187 mm in April 2009. The total number of affected people is estimated at 20.2 million; 1,961 people died; and 1.9 million homes were damaged or destroyed [Source UNOCHA, 13 October 2010].
Under the leadership of Gretchen Kalonji, Assistant Director-General for Natural Sciences, UNESCO’s Natural Sciences Sector has been engaged in a sustained and comprehensive effort, together with Pakistani partners, to implement components of the short, medium and long-term plan first developed in August of last year in immediate response to the disaster. In addition to its staff from both headquarters and field offices, UNESCO has mobilized the support and participation of scientists from the UNESCO water family, specifically from water centres in Japan, Nigeria, China and Iran and from the UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education.
And now, in July 2011, UNESCO is launching a major project in cooperation with the Government of Japan that aims to upgrade the flood forecasting and early warning systems of Pakistan, and to conduct risk mapping of flood plains along the Indus River. The project will be implemented by UNESCO in close collaboration with the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and in coordination with the Government of Pakistan.
The primary objectives of the proposed project are:
• To reduce the human and socioeconomic impacts of flooding in Pakistan,
• To improve the social, economic, and ecological benefits of floods, and
• To foster safer human settlements near flood plains.
In order to reach these objectives, the country’s capacity to deal with floods and watershed management in a holistic manner must be developed, while providing for strategic strengthening of the country’s flood early warning system to ensure safe recovery and return to livelihoods of the affected population and development and implementation of flood hazard maps at the community level. Given that nearly all of the headwaters of the Indus River’s main tributaries originate in neighbouring countries, an essential component of the programme would be developing both international and local platforms for timely sharing of hydro meteorological observations.
The project will benefit from the technical expertise of the International Centre for Water Hazard and Risk Management under the auspices of UNESCO (ICHARM), which developed a concise flood-runoff analysis system as a toolkit for more effective and efficient flood forecasting in developing countries. This Integrated Flood Analysis System (IFAS) will use high resolution (0.1-deg. Grid, hourly) rainfall information using multi-satellite as well as Geostationary Satellite data for near real time rainfall estimates using the GSMaP_NRT system developed by the Japan Space Agency (JAXA).
UNESCO is working actively with several Pakistani ministries and agencies including the Ministry of Water and Power, the Ministry of the Environment, the Federal Flood Commission, the National Disaster Management Authority, the Pakistan Meteorological Department, the Pakistan Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission (SUPARCO), the Geological Survey of Pakistan (GSP), the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), the Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA), the Indus River System Authority (IRSA), and the Global Change Studies Centre of Pakistan.
UNESCO is also playing a key leadership role in the Friends of Democratic Pakistan Water Sector Task Force. This task force is preparing a national water sector strategy, including an action and investment plan, under the coordination of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and in consultation with the Government of Pakistan.
The strategy takes all issues relating to water resources under consideration including its critical relevance to agriculture, sustainable development and disaster prevention. IHP is assisting with the strategic aspects associated with water infrastructure development and human resources for water. The report will include a comprehensive national water strategy and action plan to enable Pakistan to achieve water security; this implies assessing competing demands for water and scarce financial resources to improve delivery.
For more information, contact:
Dr Shahbaz Khan
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)
Address: UNESCO Office, Serena Business Complex,
7th Floor, Sector G-5, Islamabad