PM announces Rs15b grant for Sindh

ISLAMABAD:

Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif said on Friday that recent rains in the country had broken all previous records and the devastation they had caused was more than anyone could imagine, stressing that now was not the time to blame themselves but to unite to help the affected masses.

Speaking to reporters during a visit to Sukkur district to assess the flood situation in Sindh, the Prime Minister noted that the Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD) had warned of heavy downpours, but no one predicted that the rains would break the record of the last three decades in Sindh.

He said the devastation caused by the ongoing floods was far greater than the damage caused by the 2010 super flood in the province. “I would say it won’t be possible to assess all the losses,” Shehbaz said. “A large number of people died and dozens more were injured,” he added.

The Prime Minister acknowledged that the PMD had hinted at the heavy downpours to come. However, he said no government official had expected the rains to cause such havoc. Rain in Sindh was three to four times the average monthly rainfall in August.

“Sindh has never seen devastation on such a scale before. Crops were destroyed and livestock perished,” he said, referring to the problem of the livelihoods of millions of people created by the subsequent rain and floods.

He announced that compensation of 1 million rupees would be paid to the families of each of the deceased. He said he had given Benazir Income Support Scheme (BISP) a week to distribute 25,000 rupees to each rain-affected and displaced family in Sindh.

He told the media that the government had earmarked funds of Rs 28 billion to deal with the flooding situation but added that the amount would be increased. He also announced a grant of 15 billion rupees for the government of Sindh, which the province could use at its discretion for the rehabilitation of those affected.

To provide immediate relief to those stranded, the Prime Minister said 80 tonnes of bottled water was being distributed in Sindh and another 20 tonnes of water in Balochistan. Similarly, he added, 1.5 million mosquito nets are being distributed in Sindh and 500,000 mosquito nets in Balochistan.

Shehbaz called on wealthy people in the country, especially industrialists and traders in all major cities to come forward and help flood victims. He urged them to either deposit funds into the Prime Minister’s relief fund or personally contact those affected.

He noted that the army and navy were already engaged in rescue and relief work and suggested that the framework in which the army engaged in rescue and relief work during the 2010 floods and 2011 should be followed. He observed that the army chief also visited Karachi in this regard.

Stressing that “now is not the time to blame someone but to help each other”, the Prime Minister announced that the government had set itself short, medium and long-term objectives to help those affected. At first, Shehbaz said, the abandoned people were rescued and provided relief.

“This will be followed by the rehabilitation of people to start their lives anew in their homes and cultivate their crops with the help of compensation provided by the government,” he added. The long-term goals were to rebuild all damaged infrastructure, he continued.

The Prime Minister estimated that the first phase should be completed in a week or two and the second in 30 to 45 days. However, rebuilding the infrastructure would not only require time but also funds, for which he prayed to the Almighty to help the coalition government.
Responding to a question, Shehbaz said building more dams and reservoirs in the north would help prevent future flooding and more water could be stored. Asked about the construction of a new dam to replace the aging Sukkur dam, Shehbaz said the dam is still strong.

The Prime Minister told reporters that before going to Sukkur, he had met with the ambassadors of friendly countries, including those from the Middle East, the United States, the United Kingdom, Japan, Germany and China, who had assured him of their support.
Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, who is also Chairman of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), Federal Ministers Maryam Aurangzeb and Khurram Dastagir Khan, Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah and senior PPP leader Syed Khursheed Shah were also occasionally present.

During the visit, Bilawal requested the Prime Minister to end load shedding in flood-affected districts for early drying. Shehbaz said that instructions in this regard had already been given by the power minister Khurram Dastgir.

Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah thanked the Prime Minister for the payment of compensation to flood victims through BISP. Right now, he said, tents are the most needed commodity and called on philanthropists to help.

The Secretary General of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam, Sindh Chapter, Rashid Mehmood Soomro, stressed on the occasion the need for joint efforts by federal and provincial governments in addition to the private sector to help flood victims.

Sukkur District Administration and Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) representatives briefed the Prime Minister on ongoing works for disaster relief and infrastructure rehabilitation.

The Deputy Commissioner sought financial support from the Prime Minister to complete the second phase of the drainage project which he said would solve 90% of Sukkur’s drainage problem. He said that the city of Sukkur was below the level of the Indus, therefore drainage was a problem.

The Prime Minister also took an aerial view of the flooded areas of Sukkur, Rohri, Khairpur, Faiz Ganj, Kot Diji and Thari Mir Wah. He ordered relevant officials that relief and rescue personnel must remain on duty around the clock to assist flood survivors.

(WITH APP ENTRY)

Lance B. Holton