The Impact of Flood on Economy of Pakistan


A natural disaster is the outcome of a natural hazard and flooding is the extraordinary presence of water on land to a level which affects normal activities. Flooding which arises from the overflowing of rivers known as river flooding, heavy rainfall over short interval known as flash floods, or an unusual inflow of sea water onto land known as ocean flooding. Flash and River flooding are usually outcome of abnormally high rainfall over a relatively Short time period. Snow can melt rapidly and Bring more water into the hydrological system than can be adequately drained which Leads to what is generally known as spring floods. Monsoon floods are resulted from heavy rainfall during the tropical rainy season which can affect rivers and may also occur as flash flooding. All floods are not bad. For agricultural lands, Seasonal flooding can be an important source of nutrients. Seasonal flooding can also recharge water supplies in dams and underground aquifers. A lack of seasonal flooding is a disaster in some parts of the world. Hazards such as cyclone, flood and earthquake are natural. But disasters are not natural. Usually a disaster occurs when people are not ready for a flood due to the lack of early warning systems, preparedness and mitigation measures. Flooding which occurs quickly or occurs at night or both is the most hazardous type of flooding.

According to International Disaster Database, during past thirty five years there has been a steady increase in the frequency of natural disasters. Average disasters between 1994 and 1998 per year were 428 that jump to the annual average of 707 between 1999 and 2003.  People in the poorest countries are the most affected because of the poor housing quality, inadequate levels of infrastructure and weak emergency.

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The world suffered many natural disasters in 2010 of which two may be supposed among the worst in the history of mankind due to either lives lost or population affected. On January 12, 2010 a great earthquake of magnitude 7.0 hit Haiti. 230,000 people were killed as a result of earthquake and hundreds of thousands were injured. The country suffered great infrastructure loss. The government civil servants were also lost and it was very difficult to conduct relief operations. The government already was facing the issues of security and poor economic conditions and it was not possible for it to conduct the relief efforts with its own resources. After the earthquake, the international community responded quickly and sent hundreds of relief workers to help in rescue operations, and thousands of tons of relief goods were received. Donations in the form of cash were also significant from countries, as well as from the public sector of different nations, particularly from U.S. citizens. During this disaster a new volunteer group of information and communication technologists emerged, which played a great role in relief operations.

History of Flood in Pakistan

After a few month of its establishment in 1947, Pakistan had faced a flood in its east part. Thousands of people were died and many thousands were homeless. The 2nd flood came in Pakistan in 1954.this was flash flood and it was very fatal flood. This also occurred in East Pakistan. Dhaka was just cut out from East Pakistan.

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According to Pakistan’s National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) estimation, over 17.6 million people were affected by the floods as the water moved toward south; rivers flooded their reservoirs and inundated thousands of villages, towns and dozens of cities. The flood damaged completely infrastructure such as bridges, roads, hospitals, government buildings and houses. More than two million people became homeless, hundreds of thousands of livestock were killed, whole crops for the season were swept away, and more than one fifth of the country was submerged. This situation added to the miseries of the country, which was already struggling due to militancy and poor economic conditions. A disaster of this size and scope clearly required the support of the international community to provide humanitarian relief.

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Effects of Floods on Economy

Impact on Livelihood

Before the flood, for half of the population in flood exaggerated areas was the principal means of livelihood was agricultural crop farming. 15% depended on casual wage labor as their primary source of income. For the dislocated population, the second most common means of livelihood was Livestock rearing. Payments were not a key means of livelihood in the affected areas. For    only 1 % of households, Payments were a key means of livelihood. Skilled wage labor was 9% of household and services were7 % of household. This pattern of livelihood is parallel across the four provinces except in KPK where unskilled labor is more prominent. The flood put a negative impact on livelihood of flood victims. Standard of living is badly affected.

Household income

The flood put a negative effect on the income level. Mostly the flood victims already have low income. When flood hitted then their source of income lost. As a result of 2010 flood the households whose livelihoods were most affected have the lowest levels of income. According to a survey, those who were affected income reduced by 75 percent out of which 45 % live below the national poverty line. According to a survey, farmers and livestock owners were not interest the burden of the flood impact. More than 70% of farmers lost more than 50 percent of their expected income, followed by daily wage laborers around 60 percent lost more than 50% of their expected income. Government or private service employees were the least affected, of which almost 64 percent reported no losses. They are also the most food secure. After the floods households spent more than 65% of their expenditures on food. By this their essential expenditure on education, clothing and housing are reduced.


Effects on Home and Infrastructure

In nearly every section of Pakistan, considerable damage from the floods was prevailing. In Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan and Sindh provinces the most significant home damage was reported along the Swat and Indus rivers and their respective valleys. 10,860 separate villages were completely inundated by floodwaters after points along the Indus and Swat rivers swelled to more than 10 to 20 times their normal heights. During monsoon season, the rivers sometimes spread up to one kilometer in width. The Indus River was measured at 32 kilometers though several spots and it were 35 times wider than normal. The water heights of over 5.5 meters forced residents to run away to their roofs in hopes to be rescued.

Pakistan’s National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) reported that at least 1.24 million homes were damaged or destroyed. International support groups have emanated that at least six million people were homeless, with 17.6 million being affected. According to the United Nations, the floods had also smashed over 5,674 schools and 200 hospitals and health facilities. In the high number of damaged domiciles and structures, countryside and location of population played a major role. Much of Pakistan is surrounded within a mountainous topography.  as the, significant amounts of water ran downhill after heavy rains fall and slashed through populated hillsides before reaching rivers and tributaries. Property damage estimated from the government was PKR187 billion.

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Flooding in Punjab Province (Source: United Nations)

The flooding also damaged the transportation and infrastructure tremendously. The provincial information-minister of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa reported that the transportation infrastructure was already severely impacted by ongoing civil disorder and that the floods had only exacerbated the circumstances. Thousands of roads were either flooded or had been washed away. It was impossible to travel many affected towns and villages throughout the country. Hundreds of bridges were smashed including one along the Karakoram Highway that connects Pakistan with China. In the town of Sukkur in Sindh Province, hundreds of meters of water were prevalent on both sides of the Indus National Highway.

The floods also severely affected the electrical and telecommunications infrastructures of Pakistan. It damaged 10,000 transformers, transmission lines, base transceiver stations, base station controllers, feeders and power stations. The Pakistan Electric Power Company (PEPCO) reported that millions of residents lost electricity and millions more had lost access to clean drinking water. The Pakistani government estimated total sustained infrastructure damage losses including roads, bridges, electricity and telecommunications at over PKR13869 billion

Effects on Agriculture Sector

Pakistani government officials reported that the floods cause disastrous damage to the agricultural infrastructure. According to the reports of Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, floodwaters inundated approximately 6.9 million hectares of cropland across Pakistan’s most productive grounds in Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Sindh provinces. This is nearly 16 % of all cultivable land in Pakistan.  The country’s primary crops are cotton, sugarcane, rice, tobacco, fruits, vegetables, pulses and animal fodder. Farming is the country’s most chief source of food and also a primary economic bastion.

Pakistan’s Ministry of Food reported that economic losses due to crop damage of rice was PKR21.3 billion, of sugarcane was PKR52 billion to over 80,000 hectares, PKR22.4 billion of maize, PKR17.3 billion of wheat stock after damaging over 667,000 tonnes and PKR45 billion to fruits, fodder and vegetables. Farmers distinguished that seed for next year’s crop season was washed away.  The FAO supposed that if September wheat planting is missed because of water-logging then its impact could last for up to two years.  Rice and maize growing areas were not expected to be able to harvest their first crop until autumn of next year.

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Particularly The textile industry was affected. Over two million bales of cotton which is 20 % of the crop were washed away over 280,000 hectares uphill August 30th. The economic damages from the lost cotton was anticipated at PKR80 billion. 60% of the country’s exports is accounted by Pakistan’s textile industry. More than 200,000 livestock were died while the rest of the remaining livestock were facing a shortage of feed and fodder critical for survival. In Punjab Province alone, losses from the livestock casualties were PKR9.2 billion. There was a danger that 427,000 additional animals may be dying as a result of malnourishment and disease.

23% of Pakistan’s economy is dependent on agriculture and at least 44 percent of the work force is employed in agriculture-related work. There was fairly negative impact on the projected 2010 GDP growth due to drop in the agricultural production. According to  an estimate from the Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Livestock distinguished that floods may have damaged crops valued at up to PKR433 billion .

Prevention of Flood

Structural measures for flood control

Structural measures such as banks can give defense against many types of flooding. However Flood Control alone often does not provide a strong and long-run result for addressing flood risk. Such types of efforts at flood control in both urban and rural situation have produced limited solutions sometimes even worsen flooding problems, when applied in isolation from overall policy in the floodplains. However, such structures may be useful if they are used in combination with other non-structural measures which are planned and implemented with the participation of local people.

Early warning

In most parts of the world, early forecasting and Flood warning can produce information with longer lead times. They are useful for emergency planning and defining immediate actions in responding to a flood. Mostly early warning is needed to poor people. But many of them do not understand weather forecasting or the language of early warning. Early warning has little significance if people do not have the ability to retort to warnings in terms of taking decisions on protective actions and evacuation. Needs for warning also vary by livelihood group.

Community preparedness against flood

Effective ways of strengthening preparedness at the community level are creating useful groups, developing managerial capacities and enabling them to associate with the national disaster management mechanisms. In Asia, teaching lifesaving skills, Small-scale mitigation, contingency planning and even upgrading service provision are some key measures undertaken by non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and governments. In many cases such good work by agencies on an extemporized basis is found to be untenable and not often scaled up. Longer-term success needs strong commitment with the community.  Continuity of funding support for many smaller NGOs is a critical limiting factor in maintaining their disaster preparedness (DP) work. Some funding is globally available for disaster reduction but little is left to support tangible action, beyond training and planning. Therefore the best way is to enable the communities to organize themselves and connect them with the national disaster response system.

Strengthening coping mechanisms

To cope with flooding, susceptible people independently and cooperatively develop their own means, resources and strategies. However all of these mechanisms have financial, social and opportunity costs. A review of a preparedness programme in Pakistan confirm that susceptible people have little or no surplus income to invest in the measures that can protect them from flooding although they know what to do. Social capital such as support from immediate family members, reciprocal support among neighbors and wider association networks is a vital safety net for people in coping with persistent flooding. The devastation of assets which acts as a safeguard can make people more susceptible to the next flood. Programmes which support communities and their local organizations directly have proved to work best for immediate strengthening of coping and hardiness capacities.


Author: Ali Hassan Shabbir

MSc (Hons) Agricultural Economics

Institute of Agricultural and Resource Economics,

University of Agricultural Faisalabad, Pakistan.

Email: [email protected]


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