Flood abatement efforts yield mixed results
KABUL, 2 September 2008 (IRIN) - Government efforts to reduce flood
risks and damage in vulnerable communities have yielded mixed results.
Flash floods killed about 400 people and destroyed hundreds of houses in
different parts of the country in 2007, according to the Afghanistan
National Disasters Management Authority (ANDMA).
In a bid to reduce the risks of seasonal floods in 2008, the Afghan
government has spent about US$1.5million on thousands of gabion boxes.
Gabions are large metal boxes/cages which can be filled with stone
and/or gravel and placed on river banks and other locations to work as
"We distributed 90,000 gabion boxes to [all] 34 provinces from March to
June 2008," Naseer Ahmad Popal, head of the social protection unit at the
Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development (MRRD), told IRIN.
Local people in Behsood District of Nangarhar Province, eastern
Afghanistan, said gabion boxes had helped defend their houses and land
against flooding on several occasions this year.
"In the past rain often turned into floods and the water destroyed our
homes and land, but this year, owing to these gabions, we have not
experienced flooding so far," said Abdul Manan, a famer in Behsood.
Behsood District officials said gabion boxes had been effectively
positioned, thus creating strong flood-resistance capacity.
However, several locals in another vulnerable province, Daykundi,
central Afghanistan, did not rate their effectiveness, citing reasons for
their alleged failure.
"The gabions placed here are too weak to stop floodwater," said Golam
Sakhi, a resident of Nili, the provincial capital of Daykundi.
"We have received too few gabion boxes and therefore they have not been
useful," said another man, Hassan Ali.
The MRRD conceded that there were shortcomings in terms of the manner
in which they had been deployed in some areas.
"In some cases gabions have been placed in the wrong location and in
other cases they have been set up incorrectly," said the MRRD's Popal.
More measures needed
Despite the use of gabion boxes, over 90 people have lost their lives
and dozens of houses have been damaged in the several instances of flash
floods over the past five months, ANDMA reported.
"Certainly gabions alone cannot impede floodwater everywhere and at all
times. There is a need for other measures to mitigate flood risks and also
to build flood-resistance capacity," Mohammad Aslam Seyas, deputy director
of ANDMA, told IRIN.
Owing to steady deforestation over the past 30 years, the country has
lost much of its natural flood-resistance.
According to Seyas, the planting of trees in flood-prone areas, the
construction of flood-resistant walls alongside rivers, encouraging people
to move out of highly vulnerable locations, and improved water management
efforts are some of ANDMA's recommendations for protecting communities
against flood risks.
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