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Swat: 4 disasters in 30 years

Since 1995, it has experienced nothing but bad luck. The Tehreek-e-Nafaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi, an extremist group founded by Sufi Muhammad in the 1990s, wreaked havoc on the economy, peace, and infrastructure of the valley. The beautiful green meadows of Swat were devastated by the man-made tragedy and remained thus until early 2010 when the Taliban were finally driven from power by a successful military onslaught.

The valley had just begun to recover from the damage done by the insurgency when in 2010 floods devastated Swat, forever altering the region’s landscape. Tehsil Bahrain, the upper half of the valley, was destroyed.

In September of the next year, 2020, floods caused a third major calamity. The year is 2022, and widespread flash flooding has been caused by recent heavy rains, especially in picturesque Swat.

Extremely destructive floods, unlike anything Pakistan has ever experienced, have ripped through the valley, destroying infrastructure including roads and bridges as well as houses and businesses. Upper Swat residents are currently isolated from the rest of Pakistan.

Is the administration any wiser after 30 years and four tragedies in Swat? There were two catastrophes caused by humans and two caused by natural disasters.

The valley of Matta had been quiet for some time, but last year it made headlines when extremists and armed men suddenly reappeared there. Unfortunately, the federal and provincial governments stayed silent for a long time.

Police reports were filed against those who had approached authorities for clarification. Our country has learned nothing from the fear and bloodshed the jihadists have brought. Equally, they have not taken any lessons from natural disasters.

When the floods hit Swat in July 2010, the military responded with a massive deployment. At the time, hundreds of NGOs from all over the world came to the valley to help with relief and reconstruction efforts. But by 2016, the administration had been trying to slowly suppress international groups under the guise of security concerns, at the behest of the true power wielders.

To limit the presence of foreign and domestic NGOs in the country, new legislation was enacted. After disastrous floods, the government is once again asking for aid from the international community and these same NGOs.

Although the record rainfall was the direct cause of the human catastrophe, provincial and federal authorities still had ample opportunity to lessen its severity.

Despite efforts to boost tourism in Swat over the past few years, the natural beauty of the valley has suffered. As the valley’s population swelled, new hotels sprang up along the river without the required government permits or environmental impact studies.

Madyan, Bahrain, and Kalam, as well as Mahodand and Kumrat, were all receiving a large influx of tourists. However, even for something as fundamental as trash collection, there were no rules in place.

Still, in 2014, the government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa passed the River Protection Act to safeguard the Swat River. A clearer picture of the act’s objective emerged, however, when residential structures were razed while commercial buildings constructed after 2015 were left unaffected.

How and why the recently constructed Bahrain-Kalam Road, much of which is built on the riverbed, was not deemed an intrusion is a mystery.

Authorities also promised locals that the Daral Khwar Hydropower Project would make the Daral River safer from flooding when it was first built. In contrast to what was predicted, the area is currently underwater.

Parts of Swat have been completely submerged. There are no longer any means of transportation between the various settlements, as roads and bridges have all but disappeared.

Will our elected officials put aside partisanship to help the poor? People in your country are counting on you more than ever.

Mahnur Mehfooz
Written By

Mahnur is MS(development Studies)Student at NUST University, completed BS Hons in Eng Literature. Content Writer, Policy analyst, Climate Change specialist, Teacher, HR Recruiter.

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