Checked content

2010 Pakistan floods

Related subjects: Natural Disasters

Background Information

SOS Children, an education charity, organised this selection. SOS Children is the world's largest charity giving orphaned and abandoned children the chance of family life.

2010 Pakistan floods
Pakistan 2010 Floods.jpg
A NASA satellite image showing the Indus River at the time of floods
Duration: 26 July 2010-Present
Fatalities: 1,781+
Damages: $43 billion (estimated)
Areas affected: Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab, Sindh, Balochistan and Gilgit-Baltistan

The 2010 Pakistan floods began in July 2010 following heavy monsoon rains in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Sindh, Punjab and Balochistan regions of Pakistan and affected the Indus River basin. At one point, approximately one-fifth of Pakistan's total land area was underwater. According to Pakistani government data the floods directly affected about 20 million people, mostly by destruction of property, livelihood and infrastructure, with a death toll of close to 2,000. The number of individuals affected by the flooding exceeds the combined total of individuals affected by the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, the 2005 Kashmir earthquake and the 2010 Haiti earthquake.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had initially asked for $460 million for emergency relief, noting that the flood was the worst disaster he had ever seen. Only 20% of the relief funds requested had been received as of 15 August 2010. The U.N. had been concerned that aid was not arriving fast enough, and the World Health Organization reported that ten million people were forced to drink unsafe water. The Pakistani economy has been harmed by extensive damage to infrastructure and crops. Structural damages have been estimated to exceed 4 billion USD, and wheat crop damages have been estimated to be over 500 million USD. Officials have estimated the total economic impact to be as much as 43 billion USD.


US Army helicopter flies over a flood-affected area.

Current flooding is blamed on unprecedented monsoon rain. The rainfall anomaly map published by NASA shows unusually intense monsoon rains attributed to La Niña. On 21 June, the Pakistan Meteorological Department cautioned that urban and flash flooding could occur from July to September in the north parts of the country. The same department recorded above-average rainfall in the months of July and August 2010 and monitored the flood wave progression. Some of the discharge levels recorded are comparable to those seen during the floods of 1988, 1995, and 1997.

An article in the New Scientist attributed the cause of the exceptional rainfall to "freezing" of the jet stream, a phenomenon that reportedly also caused unprecedented heat waves and wildfires in Russia as well as the 2007 United Kingdom floods.

In response to previous floods of the Indus River in 1973 and 1976, Pakistan created the Federal Flood Commission (FFC) in 1977. The FFC operates under Pakistan's Ministry of Water and Power. It is charged with executing flood control projects and protecting lives and property of Pakistanis from the impact of floods. Since its inception the FFC has received Rs 87.8 billion (about 900 million USD). FFC documents show that numerous projects were initiated, funded and completed, but reports indicate that little work has actually been done due to ineffective leadership and corruption.

Flooding and impact


Satellite images of the upper Indus River valley comparing water-levels on 1 August 2009 (top) and 31 July 2010 (bottom)

Monsoon rains were forecasted to continue into early August and were described as the worst in this area in the last 80 years. The Pakistan Meteorological Department reported that over 200 mm (7.88 inches) of rain fell over a 24-hour period in a number of places in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab. A record-breaking 274 mm (10.7 inches) of rain fell in Peshawar during 24 hours; the previous record was 187 mm (7.36 inches) of rain in April 2009. As of 30 July, 500,000 or more people had been displaced from their homes. On 30 July, Manuel Bessler, head of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, stated that 36 districts were involved, and 950,000 people were affected, although within a day, reports increased that number to as high as a million, and by mid-August they increased the number to nearly 20 million affected. By mid-August, according to the governmental Federal Flood Commission (FFC), the floods had caused the deaths of at least 1,540 people, while 2,088 people had received injuries, 557,226 houses had been destroyed, and over 6 million people had been displaced. One month later, the data had been updated to reveal 1,781 deaths, 2,966 people with injuries, and more than 1.89 million homes destroyed.

The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provincial minister of information, Mian Iftikhar Hussain, said "the infrastructure of this province was already destroyed by terrorism. Whatever was left was finished off by these floods." He also called the floods "the worst calamity in our history." Four million Pakistanis were left with food shortages.

The Karakoram Highway, which connects Pakistan with China, was closed after a bridge was destroyed. The ongoing devastating floods in Pakistan will have a severe impact on an already vulnerable population, says the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). In addition to all the other damages the floods have caused, floodwater has destroyed much of the health care infrastructure in the worst-affected areas, leaving inhabitants especially vulnerable to water-borne disease. In Sindh, the Indus River burst its banks near Sukkur on 8 August, submerging the village of Mor Khan Jatoi. There is also an absence of law and order, mainly in Sindh. Looters have been taking advantage of the floods by ransacking abandoned homes using boats.

Affected areas as of August 26, 2010

In early August, the heaviest flooding moved southward along the Indus River from severely affected northern regions toward western Punjab, where at least 1,400,000 acres (570,000 ha) of cropland were destroyed, and toward the southern province of Sindh. The affected crops included cotton, sugarcane, rice, pulses, tobacco and animal fodder. Floodwaters and rain destroyed 700,000 acres (3,000 km2) of cotton, 200,000 acres (800 km2) acres each of rice and cane, 500,000 tonnes of wheat and 300,000 acres (1,000 km2) of animal fodder. According to the Pakistan Cotton Ginners Association, the floods destroyed 2 million bales of cotton, which led to an increase in futures of the commodity in international market. 170,000 citizens (or 70% of the population) of the historic Sindh town of Thatta fled advancing flood waters on 27 August 2010.

By mid-September the floods generally had began to recede, although in some areas, such as Sindh, new floods were reported; the majority of the displaced persons had not been able to return home.

Heavy rainfalls recorded during the wet spell of July 2010

Heavy rainfalls of more than 200 millimetres (7.9 in) were recorded during the four day wet spell from 27 July to 30 July, 2010 in the provinces of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab based on data from the Pakistan Meteorological Department.

City Rainfall (mm) Rainfall (in) Province Notes
Risalpur *415 16.3 Khyber Pakhtunkhwa
Islamabad 394 15.5 Islamabad Capital Territory
Murree 373 14.6 Punjab
Cherat *372 14.6 Khyber Pakhtunkhwa
Garhi Dopatta 346 13.6 Azad Kashmir
Saidu Sharif *338 13.3 Khyber Pakhtunkhwa
Peshawar *333 13.1 Khyber Pakhtunkhwa
Kamra 308 12.1 Punjab
Rawalakot 297 11.7 Azad Kashmir
Muzaffarabad 292 11.5 Azad Kashmir
Lahore 288 11.3 Punjab
Mianwali *271 10.6 Punjab
Jhelum 269 10.6 Punjab
Lower Dir 263 10.3 Khyber Pakhtunkhwa
Kohat *262 10.3 Khyber Pakhtunkhwa
Balakot 256 10.0 Khyber Pakhtunkhwa
Sialkot 255 10.0 Punjab
Pattan 242 9.5 Azad Kashmir
DIR 231 9.10 Khyber Pakhtunkhwa
Gujranwala 222 8.7 Punjab
Dera Ismail Khan 220 8.6 Khyber Pakhtunkhwa
Rawalpindi 219 8.6 Punjab

* Indicates new record.


The power infrastructure of Pakistan also took a severe blow from the floods, which damaged 10,000 transmission lines and transformers, feeders and power houses in different flood-hit areas. Flood water inundated Jinnah Hydro power and 150 power houses in Gilgit. The damage caused a power shortfall of 3.135 gigawatt.

Aid agencies have warned that outbreaks of diseases (e.g. gastroenteritis, diarrhea, and skin diseases) due to lack of clean drinking water and sanitation can pose a serious new risk to flood victims. On 14 August, the first documented case of cholera emerged in the town of Mingora, striking fear into millions of stranded flood victims, who were already suffering from gastroenteritis and diarrhea. Pakistan has also faced a malaria outbreak.

It has been reported by the International Red Cross that a large number of unexploded ordinance, such as mines and artillery shells, have been flushed down stream by the floods from areas in Kashmir and Waziristan and scattered in low lying areas, posing a future risk to returning inhabitants. The United Nations estimated that 800,000 people have been cut off by floods in Pakistan and are only reachable by air. It also stated that at least 40 more helicopters are needed to ferry lifesaving aid to increasingly desperate people. Many of those cut off are in the mountainous northwest, where roads and bridges have been swept away.

By order of President Asif Ali Zardari, there were no official celebrations of Pakistan's 63rd Independence Day on 14 August, due to the calamity the country faces.

Potential long term effects


Floods have submerged 17 million acres (69,000 km2) of Pakistan's most fertile crop land, have killed 200,000 herd of livestock and have washed away massive amounts of grain. A major concern is that farmers will be unable to meet the fall deadline for planting new seeds in 2010, which implies a massive loss of food production in 2011, and potential long term food shortages. The agricultural damages are more than 2.9 billion dollars, according to recent estimates, and include over 700,000 acres (2,800 km2) of lost cotton crops, 200,000 acres (810 km2) of sugar cane and 200,000 acres (810 km2) of rice, in addition to the loss of over 500,000 tonnes of stocked wheat, 300,000 acres (1,200 km2) of animal fodder and the stored grain losses.

Agricultural crops such as cotton, rice, and sugarcane and to some extent mangoes were badly affected in Punjab, according to a Harvest Tradings-Pakistan spokesman. He called for the international community to fully participate in the rehabilitation process, as well as for the revival of agricultural crops in order to get better GDP growth in the future.

In affected Multan Division in South Punjab, some people were seen to be engaging in profit-taking in this disaster, raising their prices up to Rs 130/kg. Some have called for Zarai Taraqiati Bank Limited to write off all agricultural loans in the affected areas in Punjab, Sindh and Khyber Pukhtunkhwa especially for small farmers.

On 24 September World Food Programme announced that about 70% of Pakistan's population do not have adequate access to proper nutrition. Most of this population with less than adequate nutrition lives in rural areas of the country.

Already resurgent in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, agricultural devastation brought on by the floods leaves much of Pakistan susceptible to an increase in poppy cultivation, especially given the crop's resiliency and relatively few inputs.


Floods have damaged an estimated 2,433 miles of highway and 3,508 miles (5,646 km) of railway. Cost estimates for highway damages are approximately 158 million USD, and railway damages are 131 million USD. Any unique or particularly large infrastructure damages will increase these estimates. Public building damages are estimated at 1 billion USD. Aid donors have presented an estimate that 5,000 schools have been destroyed.

Taliban insurgency

It was reported that the flood would divert Pakistani military forces from fighting the Pakistani Taliban insurgents (TTP) in the northwest as they would be needed to help in the relief effort giving Taliban fighters a reprieve to regroup. On the other hand, the argument was made that by helping flood victims, the US had an opportunity to improve its image.

The Pakistani Taliban also engaged in relief efforts making inroads where the government was absent or seen as corrupt. As the flood may have dislodged many property markers, it is feared that governmental delay and corruption will give an advantage to the Taliban to settle these disputes swiftly. In August a Taliban spokesperson asked the Pakistani government to reject Western help from "Christians and Jews" and claimed that the Taliban could raise $20 million to replace that aid.

According to a US official the TTP had issued a threat saying that it would launch attacks against foreigners participating in flood relief operations. In response, the United Nations said it was reviewing security arrangements for its workers. The World Health Organization stated that work in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province was already suffering because of the security concerns. However, an unverified Taliban spokesperson based in Orakzai told The Express Tribune: “We have not issued any such threat; and we don’t have any plans to attack relief workers." Nevertheless three American Christians were reported to have been killed by the Taliban on August 25 in the Swat Valley.

Political effects

Floods have been theorized to have future political consequences mostly due to public perception of governance inefficacies and it has been said that if the situation is not adequately addressed specially with fight against terrorism going on in Pakistan, it might lead to future political unrest. These political effects of the floods have been compared with that of 1970 Bhola cyclone.

Although the flooding could still trigger massive resentment against President Asif Ali Zardari's regime, Pakistan's political resiliency must also simultaneously take into account two ongoing insurgencies (in Balochistan and Waziristan), growing urban sectarian discord, increasing suicide bombings against core institutions and India.

Economic effects

On 7 September 2010, the International Labour Organization reported that more than 5.3 million jobs have been lost due to the floods, emphasizing that "productive and labor intensive job creation programmes are urgently needed to lift millions of people out of poverty that has been aggravated by flood damage". The GDP growth rate of 4% prior to the floods may turn negative with the estimates ranging from -2% to -5% of GDP. Though the GDP growth may improve in 2011 and beyond, it will be several years before it can return to the 4% level of 2009. As a result, Pakistan is unlikely to meet the IMF's target budget deficit cap of 5.1% of GDP, and the existing $55 billion of external debt is set to grow. The loss of crops will hit the textile manufacturing which is the largest export sector of Pakistan. Furthermore, the loss of over 10 million heads of livestock's along with the loss of other crops will bring down the total agricultural production by more than 15%. Toyota and Unilever Pakistan have said that the floods may sap growth, necessitating production cuts as people struggle to cope with the destruction. Parvez Ghias the chief executive of Pakistan's largest automotor manufacturer Toyota described the economy's state as "fragile". Nationwide car sales are predicted to fall as much as 25%, forcing automakers to reduce production in October 2010 from the pre-flood level of 200 cars per day. The milk supplies have also fallen by 15%, which will cause the retail price of milk to increase by Pk Rs 4 (5 US cents) per liter. Some investors have started to buy the devalued stock in the hope that they will rise again.

Relief efforts

A bridge damaged by the flooding

By the end of July 2010, Pakistan had appealed to international donors for help in responding to the disaster, having provided twenty-one helicopters and 150 boats to assist affected people, according to its National Disaster Management Authority. At that time the US embassy in Pakistan had provided seven helicopters. The United Nations launched its relief efforts and appealed for $460 million to provide immediate help, including food, shelter and clean water. On August 14, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon visited Pakistan to oversee and discuss the relief efforts. A Pakistani army spokesman said that troops had been deployed in all affected areas and had rescued thousands of people. Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani visited the province and directed the Pakistan Navy to help evacuate the flood victims. By early August, more than 352,291 people have been rescued.

By the end of August, the Relief Web Financial Tracking service indicated that worldwide donations for humanitarian assistance had come to $687 million, with a further $324 million promised in uncommitted pledges. At that time, the Secretary-General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) stated that Muslim countries, organizations and individuals had pledged close to $1 billion to assist in Pakistan’s flood emergency, a statement placed in doubt by findings from the UN Financial Tracking Service, which indicated that only three of the OIC's 56 member states - Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Kuwait - had pledged more than single digit millions. Pakistan’s Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani stated that by the end of August, Saudi Arabia's support exceeded that of the US, yet both UN data and data from Pakistan's Disaster Management Authority failed to support this claim.

With need for substantial support to repair infrastructure, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton suggested that the Pakistani government enlarge its tax base by asking the wealthy citizens of Pakistan to contribute more for their country; by that time both the US and the EU each had contributed about $450 million for the relief effort.

According to UNOCHA, by November 2010, a total of close to $1,792 million had been committed in humanitarian support, the largest amount by the US (30.7%), followed by private individuals and organizations (17.5%) and Saudi Arabia (13.5%).

Criticism of response

The Pakistani government was blamed for sluggish and disorganized response to the floods. The perceived disorganized and insufficient response led to instances of riots, with attacks and looting of aid convoys by hunger-stricken people. The lack of a unified government response allowed Islamist groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jamaat-e-Islami to supply aid with minimal resistance. President Asif Ali Zardari was also criticized for going ahead with visits to meet leaders in Britain and France at a time when his nation was facing catastrophe. In Sindh, the ruling Pakistan People's Party ministers were accused of using their influence to direct flood waters off their crops while risking densely populated areas. Pakistani ambassador for UN Abdullah Hussain Haroon called for an inquiry into allegations about rich landowners diverting water into unprotected villages to save their own crops.

The United Nations criticized the international community for responding slowly, despite the ferocity and magnitude of disaster. As of 9 August, only $45 million in aid had been committed, which is far less than usual for a natural disaster of this scale. In an analysis of the response to the disaster, The Guardian said that there was a dire need of relief goods in the immediate aftermath of the floods. It quoted the UN's humanitarian affairs coordination office, saying that "[s]ix million [of the 14 million affected] are children and 3 million women of child-bearing age. This is a higher figure than in the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami."

An analysis by AP's correspondent, Nahal Toosi, suggested that a number of factors account for the inadequate international response: namely, the low death toll, the protracted unfolding of the extent of the catastrophe, the lack of celebrity involvement, the impression that the government is not focused on the event, and a certain donor fatigue, perhaps more so as Pakistan had been receiving support before.

British Prime Minister David Cameron was accused by Pakistan of hampering international aid efforts after he claimed that Pakistan was responsible for promoting terrorism.

Neglect of minorities

It has been reported that members of Pakistan's Ahmadiyya Muslim community, who were caught up in floods in Muzaffargarh, were not rescued from their homes because rescuers felt that Muslims must be given priority. Ahmadi Muslims complained to the government that not only were they not rescued but in some instances ejected from relief camps when their identity was disclosed. Ahmadis were declared a non-Muslim minority in 1974 by the Pakistani government, which prohibited them from 'posing as Muslims', and have faced continued persecution. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan condemned the denial of relief to Ahmadis. It also stated, “The commission has noted with concern reports of lack of provision of relief goods to flood-affected Ahmadi families, expulsion of displaced Ahmadis from a government school in Dera Ghazi Khan and rented lodgings elsewhere in southern Punjab after clerics’ pressure as well as issuance of edicts by clerics that affected Ahmadis must not be provided help."

Members of the Sikh community, who arrived at gurdwaras in Lahore, also complained of government apathy. They said members of their community were abandoned in Khyber-Pakhtoonkhwa and had to arrange for rescues by themselves. In Peshawar, Sikh leaders accused the government of not helping them after the floods swept away their homes and businesses, while threatening to protest lack of assistance by the government.

Protests broke out in Lyari relief camp after Hindu victims of the Baagri and Waghari nomadic tribes were served beef by the authorities in violation of their religious beliefs, which forbid consumption of beef. The situation was resolved after officials from The Minority Affairs Ministry intervened.


Abdullah Hussain Haroon, Pakistan's diplomat to the United Nations, has alleged that wealthy feudal warlords and landowners in Pakistan have been diverting funds and resources away from the poor and into their own private relief efforts. Haroon also alluded to evidence that landowners had allowed embankments to burst, leading to water flowing away from their land. There are also allegations that local authorities colluded with the warlords to divert funds. The floods have accentuated the sharp divisions in Pakistan between the wealthy and the poor. The wealthy, with better access to transportation and other facilities, have suffered far less than the poor of Pakistan.

Retrieved from ""