Seasonal floods warning

KABUL, 4 March 2010 (IRIN) - Rain and warmer temperatures are expected to melt snow and cause floods in parts of Afghanistan over the coming weeks, government officials and experts warn.

“We are very concerned about severe floods this year due to warmer weather and other environmental reasons,” Abdul Matin Edrak, director of the Afghanistan Disasters Management Authority (ANDMA), told IRIN on 3 March.

The country is vulnerable to seasonal floods and other natural disasters but has few disaster management resources, aid workers say.

Natural disasters seriously affect over 400,000 Afghans every year, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. “Last year about 300,000 individuals were affected by floods alone,” said Edrak.

Snow packs are lighter this year due to reduced snowfall this winter, the Famine Early Warning System Network (FEWS-Net), an affiliate of the US Agency for International Development, said in its weekly weather update on 24 February, though rapid warming can cause floods regardless of the thickness of snow cover.

“If heavy rainfall occurs in areas with a deep snow pack, the risk for localized flooding would increase,” it noted.

Led by the second vice-president, Karim Khalili, the country’s emergency commission on 3 March discussed ways to mitigate the impact of floods.

“The government has very limited resources for disaster management and mitigation so we mostly rely on UN assistance and support,” said Edrak, adding that 85 percent of post-disaster aid often comes from UN agencies.

NATO-led Provincial Reconstruction Teams provide evacuation and assistance services in emergencies such as during the Salang avalanche evacuation in February.

Members of parliament often criticize the government for failing to create a functioning disaster management institution, and are critical of the president’s ad hoc cash assistance to natural disaster victims.

“The government must build systems and institutions which should prevent disaster-related casualties,” said Mir Ahmad Joyenda from the lower house. He said the government must end its dependence on international aid agencies in disaster management.

Affect on livelihoods

Flash floods often destroy agricultural land, trees and livestock - the main sources of income for most of the rural population.

Whilst food and non-food aid can meet the immediate needs of flood-affected communities, long-term flood-resistance and alleviation remedies are equally important, said Majid Qarar, spokesperson of the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock (MAIL).

He said MAIL needs US$4 billion to revive and develop irrigation systems countrywide - something that would also reduce the risk of frequent flooding affecting vulnerable communities.

The outgoing special representative of the UN Secretary-General, Kai Eide, has identified agriculture as a critical development sector and asked donors to channel more funds to it. 

Source: Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN), a project the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. IRIN is UN humanitarian news and information service, but may not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or its agencies.


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