Friday, September 24, 2010

Is 2010 the year of the floods?

Tom Freyberg in Water World: Victoria. Pakistan. Rio de Janeiro. Madeira. All of these states, countries, cities and islands have one thing in common; they have been hit badly by floods in 2010. The finger of blame should not be pointed solely at the common scapegoat of global warming, as an enquiry from the UN suggests.

…However, we have to remember that Pakistan has been prone to flooding long before this latest episode. Its topography and the monsoon season means the country has suffered serious floods in the past, albeit on a smaller scale. But this time the heavy rains were even more devastating.

The fingers of blame have also been pointed in the direction of human behaviour. A report from Reuters showed that scientists have accused poor land management, outdated irrigation systems and logging as being as much to blame as global warming. Experts said that a major factor that led to the massive flooding was illegal logging in the northwest province of Kyhber-Pakhtunkhwa. As tree roots help bind soil, naturally retaining water, a sudden lack of trees can lead to soil erosion and exhaustion.

Asad Jarwan Qureshi of the International Water Management Institute was quoted as saying: "Over-grazing by livestock - common in rural Pakistan - can also remove layers of topsoil and stunt plant growth, reducing the soil’s ability to hold water."

Furthermore, rich landowners in the region have since been accused of diverting water into unprotected villages during the floods to save their own crops. The UN ambassador for Pakistan, Abdullah Hussain Haroon, called for an enquiry into claims that embankments have been allowed to burst to protect commercial crops….

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