Comment and Compare the Boscastle and Pakistan Floods Essay

Published: 2019-12-18 20:40:16
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During the 2010 monsoon season (July and August), Pakistan experienced the worst floods recorded in its history. Heavy rainfall caused flash floods in the north and north-western regions of the country. The subsequent run-off created a southward moving mass of water approximately the size of the United Kingdom. The flood waters travelled downstream through Punjab and Sindh until they reached the Arabian Sea. Many of the main tributaries feeding into the Indus River were also flooded, further inundating agricultural lands. In total, some 20 million people were displaced and 50,000 square km were submerged, while standing crops, infrastructure and land were damaged extensively. The extent of the destruction caused by the 2010 floods is hard to comprehend. The floods impacted seventy-eight districts, resulting in the deaths of over 1900 people with at least another 2900 injured. In the areas receiving flood-waters 70% of the roads and bridges were swept away.

More than 10,000 schools and 500 hospitals were destroyed or damaged, as were about 1.6 million homes. In a relatively short period of time, millions of Pakistanis who were already having a difficult time making a living before the floods found themselves homeless and unsure of how to survive. The losses were largest for crops with direct damage to 2.1 million hectares of standing Kharif crops (crops that are sown in the rainy season) mainly cotton, rice, sugarcane and vegetables; one million tonnes of food and seed stocks were lost along with a large number of on-farm water channels and wells.

Livestock were decimated during the flash floods in the hilly areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, while grazing animals and poultry were also lost in the plains area. In all, approximately 200,000 livestock (including cows, sheep, buffalo, goats and donkeys) were initially confirmed dead, with the total rising somewhat over time. Of immediate concern was the increased risk of outbreaks of contagious diseases due to unsafe drinking water, poor sanitation and personal hygiene, food insecurity,lack of shelter, overcrowding and decreased access to health care. In late August 2010, over 450,000 cases of dysentery and other diseases were reported, and some 3.5 million children were considered at risk of contracting water-borne diseases including diarrhoea and cholera.

Three rivers the Valency, Jordan and Paradise converge on the small, tourist village of Boscastle on the Cornish coast. The majority of the damage caused by the flash flood on 16th August 2004, 52 years after the catastrophe that was the Lynmouth flood, was attributable to the Valency. In total, an input of 3 million tonnes of water was added to a tiny drainage basin, whose size was just 40 square kilometres. Attention must be paid not just to the total volume of rain but also the intensity with which it fell. 185mm arrived in just five hours, the majority falling in the first two hours. Under such conditions, infiltration was virtually impossible, with the rate of precipitation greatly exceeding the infiltration capacity of any soil type. The soils were already saturated from previous rainfall earlier in the week, encouraging surface run-off to begin even sooner. The three river valleys are very steep and narrow; a broader floodplain would have helped to soak up excess water and to reduce energy more effectively through an increased hydraulic radius.

The settlement of Boscastle was allowed to develop on a narrow flood plain on the west coast of England, where rainfall is often high. The rainfall of August 2004 hit at the worst time of year, when the settlement population doubled to 2,000 as tourists arrived. Much higher levels of motor vehicle damage were also experienced as a result of this temporary population increase. In addition, shops were carrying greater levels of stock than at other times of the year. Although new flood defences were set to be built in October of that year, work had not yet started. Overall, excellent emergency services and Environment Agency response meant no lives were lost. However, due to the constantly changing nature of the tourist population, it took a long time to clearly establish that there had been no fatalities. Most shops stayed shut for the rest of the season and the bad publicity reduced tourist numbers during the following years, resulting in a negative multiplier effect for the entire local community. In addition, the effect spread beyond Boscastle other settlements along the river were perceived to be at risk by tourists.

Boscastle businesses could claim compensation from their insurance companies (claims for disruption to trading in Boscastle amounted to £15m). However, others businesses elsewhere in Cornwall could not, even though they too may have suffered reduced trade in the following years. This became a cause for concern, with tourism accounting for 30% of Cornwalls GDP and tourists spending up to £1 billion throughout the county. Shared amenities such as Boscastle village green were now covered with silt and up-ended cars. There were serious costs for a small community with a seasonal employment problem, due to its over-reliance on summer tourism. There was also irreplaceable loss of historical artefacts; The Witch Museum which was fifty years old and received 50,000 visitors a year saw some of its unique contents damaged. Infrastructure disruption was another major problem; both bridges in Boscastle were destroyed and sections of road swept away. Telephone, water, electricity and gas supplies were all immediately interrupted.

People found the value of their homes permanently reduced, now that Boscastle was associated with a serious flood risk. It has been suggested that values were halved. In some instances it took six months before properties were sufficiently repaired for homeowners to permanently return. This was one of the worst problems that flood victims faced: they could not physically return to their homes even when the floodwaters receded. In some cases, the historic character of the houses in Boscastle caused extra problems. Six properties were destroyed outright; most others required between £15,000 and £30,000 for repairs. Insurance companies reimbursed most people however some home and car owners did not receive compensation because (a) they lacked appropriate insurance cover or (b) they found that they were not entitled to payment because insurers regarded this unusual event as an Act of God.

It is difficult to compare these two floods, which both caused significant damage, but the scale to which this happened varied tremendously; one occurred in a small, sleepy Cornish village while the other tormented a whole country. The numbers involved also differed; there were thankfully no deaths in the Boscastle flood (one resident suffered a heart attack but that was the extent of the casualties), whereas there were over 1500 people killed in Pakistan with millions more left homeless and in danger of starvation and waterborne diseases. The cost of the clean up for a small village like Boscastle was great enough; that for the already heavily indebted, poverty-stricken Pakistan was impossibly high. The greatest similarity is the physical geography of the land which didnt allow for adequate drainage of the affected areas.

Pakistan is essentially split down the middle with the western side of the country all at least 300m above sea level whereas the eastern half is low lying farmland/floodplains. This meant that the excess surface runoff caused by the high levels of rainfall simply followed the gradient of the land and flooded the lower lying east. Boscastle is in an even worse position as it is sitting at the bottom of a valley so the water came from both sides, converging at the village where the already swollen rivers simultaneously burst their banks. Another similarity was the high levels of rainfall immediately preceeding the floods which meant that the subsequent rainfall was unable to infiltrate the already saturated ground.

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