AS monsoon rains continue to wreak havoc around the country, the Met department appears to have gone into panic mode.
For southern Sindh, the department issued two alerts over the past two weeks, warning of urban flooding when none materialised.
Since the flooding in Chitral triggered a series of glacial lake outbursts and flash floods with no alert from the Met department in mid-July, the department has been issuing an alert almost every day, seemingly at random. Playing it safe, it seems to feel that issuing regular alerts is the safest strategy.
Now the department has been caught off guard once again in the northern parts of the country, from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to Gilgit-Baltistan.
For example, on the morning of July 30, the department issued an alert saying that a “severe weather system is likely to persist for next 3-4 days in GB and Chitral” with potential to trigger glacial lake outbursts. The alert was signed by the department’s chief meteorologist.
Later the same day, the department issued another alert, signed by the deputy director forecasting, warning that glacial lake outbursts were possible given “clear sky conditions and high temperatures of [the] northern areas during next two days”.
So in the morning they were talking of a persistent “severe weather system” producing heavy rainfall and in the evening they were warning of “clear sky conditions and high temperatures”, both scenarios flagged as carrying the possibility of glacial lake outbursts.
It would appear that the Met department is struggling to keep up. Instead of developing bureaucratic survival strategies, it – and the country – would perhaps be better served if it became more vociferous about the demand for improved forecasting capability.
This year so far, villagers in Chitral and residents of cities such as Nowshera have been left to their own devices as floods ravage their homes and fields.
In earlier years, it was other areas. It is outright pathetic that after five consecutive years of flooding, Pakistan is still walking blind into an increasingly dangerous monsoon season.
Published in Dawn, August 3rd, 2015
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