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Disaster Management in Sindh with historical perspective 

The province of Sindh has historically suffered from both natural and manmade disasters. The high level of risk is mainly from floods, heavy rains, cyclones in coastal area, sea intrusion, droughts, earthquakes, epidemics etc.

Floods, Rains: The topography  of Sindh Province is almost  flat  and located  at the bottom of Indus basin. The surplus water  of Indus River and its tributaries  including monsoon  has to pass through  Sindh. Hill torrents which emanate from Balochistan are also adding up to the pressure on both account, till its outfall in the Arabian sea. The River Indus in Sindh is dangerous, because it flows at ridge. In case of breach the out flowing water cannot be drained back into the river at any point. The Indus River is also popular for changing its course.

High floods since the creation of modern irrigation network in 1932 are being monitored. The river Indus is contained by flood protection embankments which are 1400 miles, so as to protect irrigation network  emanating  from three  barrages  having 12.8 million acres’ 0f command  area. Besides, there is a large network of surface drainage and 6000 public tube wells, roads, railways network, cities / towns, rural settlements etc. The high floods occurred during 1942, 1956, 1957, 1958, 1973, 1975, 1976, 1979, 1992, 1994, 1995, 2003, 2005 and 2007.

Rains of 2003 monsoon in Sindh have affected around 411,000 acres of crop area, while 18,500 kilometres of road infrastructure suffered huge  losses. Roughly losses are estimated  around 45 billion   rupees.   This  estimate  includes crop  damage,  damage  to  health,  education  and  road infrastructure, damage to houses and destruction of irrigation and drainage facilities.


 Cyclones: The coastal districts have also been adversely affected by heavy rainfall and cyclones. The districts of Thatta and Badin have been badly affected on several occasions. Cyclones not only wiped out the human settlements  and resulted in the huge losses of human and animal lives, but they also destroyed and damaged  fishing boats, therefore badly affected the livelihood of the majority of residents of these two districts.

 Historically, the tropical cyclones formed over the Arabian sea and making landfall at the coastal areas of Sindh. Major cyclones reaching Sindh during the last 100 years happened  in May 1902, June 1926, June 1964. Nov. 1993, June 1998, May 1999 and June 2007 (Cyclone– 02A). Keti Bunder town was wiped out four times in recent history.


Tsunami: The Sindh  province  can  be  a  recipient  of  a  tsunami   disaster.   A tsunami  disaster  occurred in November 1945 at Makran coast in Balochistan Province. It produced sea waves of 12-15 meters height that  killed about  4,000 people. Although Karachi was away from the epicentre, but still it experienced 6 feet high sea waves which affected harbour facilities. This happened during the months of March , April and May.

The effects of tsunami of December, 2004 were also felt along the Pakistan coastline. Abnormal rise in  water  detected  by  tide  gauge  station  at Keti Bander  area  created  panic  in  the  coastal population  including Karachi.


Drought: Sindh  geographically  can  be  divided  into  four  zones  namely  eastern  desert,  western  hilly / mountainous area, coastal area in the south and irrigated agriculture area in the middle. Its 60% area is arid receiving rainfall on average of 5 inches during monsoon and very little in December & January. The arid area people depend upon the  scanty rainfall raising livestock and millet crops. The failure of rainfall and global climatic effects reduce the water  supplies  in Indus River System (IRS). Sindh being at the fag end of the system usually takes the brink. Besides, two-third of ground water is brackish and 80% agricultural land is affected by water logging and salinity.

Arid area people usually move to canal commanded  area but low flow in the river Indus from 1998-2002 created  havoc in the  entire  province. Historically, Sindh faced the  worst  drought  situation during 1871, 1881, 1899, 1931, 1942 and 1999. The last one persisted till the year 2002. Around 1.4 million people, 5.6 million  cattle head  and 12.5 million acres cropped area were affected. The ground  water  depleted   to 30-40  feet,  and  the  quality  became  poor.  As a result of malnutrition, disease erupted. The cultivated area reduced in 1998 from 3.415 million acres to 2.611 million acres. The most affected was wheat  area 22% and rice almost  35%. Besides, cultivated area grew poor crops, which created  food scarci ty  all over Sindh,  except  for  a  couple  of districts. There was tremendous  drop out (about 27%) in schools, due to drought situation.


Earthquake: The latest earthquake that affected Sindh desert area was recorded in the year 2001 in Tharparkar district and the bordering Badin District was also badly affected. Due to this earthquake 12 people lost their lives, 115 persons got injured, 1989 houses were fully damaged,  43643 houses partially damaged  and 1406 public sector buildings got damaged. Loss in financial terms was recorded around  Rs. 2.4 billion.

A geological  tectonic  line runs under  Karachi through  Khirthar Hills / Mountains to north-west of Sindh and Thar desert, due to which Sindh has risk of a major earthquake in the future.


Sea Intrusion: Apart from drought  and  cyclone the  coastal of Sindh is also badly affected by sea  intrusion. Thatta and Badin districts are among such areas. Between 2000 and 2002, the outflow of water downstream Kotri Barrage declined which resulted  in massive sea intrusion in coastal areas of Thatta and  Badin.  This intrusion wreaked havoc not only on human and fish population but also damaged agricultural land badly. The country is losing sea food market every year due to depletion of fish and shrimp population  in the region. The table below provides details on the affected areas.

Some adverse effects of reduction in freshwater flow to the Indus are listed below: Decrease in the availability of potable water Increased malnutrition and disease Reduction in fish population and mangroves Increased salinity and destruction of agriculture Increased poverty.

Massive migration  from coastal talukas of Shah Bunder, Kharochan, Keti Bunder, Ghorabari, Jati and Mirpur Sakro. Destruction caused by sea intrusion can be combated by increasing the downstream flow into Kotri Barrage to at least 10 MAF.


Accidental Fires: There have been no wide spread fire s in the  province, since, the density of forest area is negligible. However, large number  of fire incidents occured in  rural areas affecting villages and crops. The recent incident happened  in Dadu district, where village Mud has been completely burnt and four persons died. In urban area mostly industrial and commercial installations are at risk.  A boiler  blast in SITE area and the PNSC building which got burnt twice in Karachi are the three  recent  incidents. On average  in Karachi 3-4 fire incidents take plac e every day. The main reasons in rural and urban area are summer  winds and electrical short circuits. There are over 12,000 industrial units in Sindh, but the arrangement for prevention  and tackling of fire incidents are poor. Availability of fire brigade / fire fighting equipments  even in major urban centers like Karachi is not adequate.


Communal strife: The province in one way or the other faces serious communal strife which affects the security of common man and cause economic loss and social problems. In the north Sindh incidents of tribal clash, honor killing, dacoities, robberies and armed clashes are common.


Epidemics: In the past during 1950’s mainly epidemics like chol era and small pox were experienced, which have now  been  eradicated.   However  severe  danger  from  TB, cardiac  and  hepatitis,   dengue  fever like diseases still prevails.


Environmental Degradation: The deteriorating drainage and increased density of human waste and other pollution in the Indus River has  negative  impacts  on the  human  and  livestock populations,  as well as, on agriculture, fishing, land, water and forest. So il degradation  has threatened  a range of livelihoods, lower water levels have also resulted in diminished sizes of buffalo herds, which need shallow water as part of their  habitat.  This has  caused  heavy  reduction  in  milk production  and  hardship  for families dependent  upon buffalo milk as their source of income. The coastal areas are already arid and have brackish ground water. These problems were compounded  in May 1999 when a cyclone struck the coast.  This was followed by an earthquake in Janu ary 2001. Consequently as a result in the coastal belt of Thatta and Badin districts, poverty has increased significantly. To add further to the problems of the people the intrusion of sea water has rendered farmland non-productive and affected coastal mangrove forests. These mangrove forests are a breeding zone for fish, shrimps, lobsters, and crab, which provide employment  and livelihood to thousands  of people. Moreover, mangrove forests provide fuel wood and fodder. The oil spill from a ship in July 2003 polluted the Karachi beach by spreading on about 12 km length.

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