ISLAMABAD - In the absence of technological equipment to issue early warnings about the much intense and longer monsoon season this year, the govt authorities and rescue officials will face immense difficulty in tackling the irremediable catastrophe. In past years, the country heavily suffered from the intense floods due to unawareness of the concerned authorities which led to unbearable human, infrastructural and agricultural loss affecting the overall economic structure.

Talking to The Nation, PMD Director General Dr Ghulam Rasul said: “The monsoon season will be strong with 20 per cent more rainfall than average and our radar system is quite poor and not up to the mark to timely predict the flood warnings.”  He revealed that the working life of radar is 10 years after that it will no longer remain useful. Without technological up-gradation floods devastation could not be overcome, he said. 

“Even the developed countries like US, Japan and China faced losses and damages in the presence of modern technology in tackling natural disasters. The intensity of natural calamity can be minimised but cannot be completely averted,” he added.

He said, “Lessons have been learnt from the previous flooding in monsoon as well as from torrential rains and we have improved the EWS.”  He said that in the project of worth Rs 4 billion, the Chief Minister Punjab promised to provide support to three radar systems in Lahore, Sialkot and Mangla which will be planned to complete in 2 years.

He urged the civil defence authorities to ask volunteers and youth to participate and help in flood relief activities.

Earlier, the Federal Minister for Planning and Development Ahsan Iqbal while chairing a meeting in Islamabad this week stressed upon the need for modern early warning system to check the floods in monsoon season.

During the meeting on flood preparedness and monsoon rain forecast by Pakistan Metrological Department (PMD), he disclosed that all of the seven flood warning radars are out of order.

Also last week Chairman of the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), Major General Asghar Nawaz informed that Pakistan stood eight among 10 countries prone to earthquakes and floods.

The NDMA Chairman also informed that presently with the limited resources the meteorological office did not have the capacity to forecast high-intensity floods and storms. 

He urged the media to play its role by airing public service messages before start of monsoon season to keep masses updated.

Officials from the PMD present in the meeting informed that the govt is facing shortage of funds to mobilise the proposed Rs 7 billion fund for Early Warning System (EWS) project.

According to Senior Private Secretary PMD Muhammad Amjad, the flood warning system radars are quite old in the country and the oldest among seven radars was installed in Sialkot in 1978, while the latest one was installed in 2004 in Mangla.

The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province is facing intense flooding since 2010, and there is only one early warning system established in the province in Dera Ismail Khan in 1994.

Talking to The Nation on Thursday, Muhammad Amjad informed, “As the monsoon season is approaching, PMD requested Rs 7 billion to modernise and upgrade country-wide early warning system with 21 radars but unable to get these funds.” As the part of the project costing Rs 3.7 billion, PMD had planned to install radars in Quetta, D.G Khan, D.I. Khan, Gwadar and Zhob with 40 watchtowers in other parts of the country, he added.

Mechanisation of almost 100 already existing observatories needs an amount of Rs 500 million.

Meanwhile Rs 1 billion are required for 200 Automatic Weather Stations, he said.

Beside warning communication system and cell broadcast wind profilers and FM weather radio, there is a need of Rs 450 million finances for both Glacier Lake Outburst Flood (GLOF) station in Gilgit Baltistan and Upper KP.

Meanwhile, a meeting here at the Prime Minister House on Thursday agreed to acquire quality weather radars and share comprehensive weather reports with the provincial authorities and the people to mitigate any losses.

The decision came at a meeting chaired by Secretary to the Prime Minister to review the performance of Pakistan Meteorological Department, on the directions of Prime Minister Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif.

It was decided to purchase best quality radars from the international market and the Meteorological Department was asked to submit a comprehensive project document alongwith financial costing for the approval of the competent authority.

It was also agreed that the Meteorological Department will regularly share weather forecast with all the stakeholders and disseminate the same through media, to mitigate the risk.

It was also agreed that Pakistan Meteorological Department, Federal Flood Commission and NDMA will effectively communicate with each other in real time for better coordination.  Chairman NDMA briefed the meeting that NDMA is ready with all its stock for any untoward eventuality during floods.

The Chairman also apprised the meeting that he is in contact with all the provincial disaster management authorities and fully aware of all their existing stocks for flood relief.

Haroon Janjua