ISLAMABAD - The United Nations has made standby arrangements to respond to the flood-like situation triggered due to heavy downpour in different parts of Pakistan, provided that the country seeks the international body's help for the provision of humanitarian assistance.

Contrary to the weather reports predictive of heavy downpour in July, the belated arrival of monsoon rains this year has caused to inundate dozens of villages in Central Punjab as well as Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Federally Administered Tribal Areas and Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK). The provincial and national disaster management authorities (DMAs), respective district administrations and some local non-governmental organisations are engaged in humanitarian activities in the rain-affected regions while the international humanitarian community is set to launch a humanitarian response if requested by the Government of Pakistan.

"We have made all the necessary standby arrangements and contingency measures to deal with the humanitarian situation caused by the monsoon rains in Pakistan. The humanitarian response is to be initiated on the request of the Pakistani government," Humaira Mehboob, Spokesperson for the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Pakistan, told The Nation.

"Upon receiving the said request, humanitarian operations would be launched considering the nature and scale of damage and devastation in the rain-affected areas. The separate region-wise preparedness and response plans have already been prepared to respond to the rainfalls and flood threat. The humanitarian cluster-formation and related arrangements are to be followed once the humanitarian activities begin. The UN's back-up response plan is ready," she said. 

In a conversation with this scribe from Geneva earlier this month, the Director Emergency Response at OCHA Rashid Khalikov had said that it was for the Pakistan to decide if it wanted to seek the UN's help in the backdrop of flood threat. "The flood threat has been imminent in Pakistan. The deadly scenario may start unfolding anytime and nobody knows where it might lead to. We can provide all the support and assistance if the Government of Pakistan finds it essential to seek the United Nations humanitarian support," he had said then. 

The Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD) has forecasted more rains in Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Potohar region (including Islamabad Capital Territory), Hazara region and AJK.

Informed officials at the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) said, the authority has resources to deal with the additional rainfalls up to ten percent of the total rains poured so far  "If the precipitation level stays within the ten percent, there wouldn't be any need to get help from the UN or international community. In case it exceeds the said limit, it would slip beyond our control to provide effective protection against floods and the international community's involvement would become inevitable," the officials said adding that the recent flood waves were categorised as medium. "We don't have enough resources and capabilities to tackle the high floods. The situation would get really challenging if there's heavy downpour in coming days."

In September last year, President Asif Ali Zardari had requested the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon for the world body's help against flash floods, but only after the flood waters had ravaged major part of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, rural Sindh and Punjab.

The official sources say, in case the Government of Pakistan decides to seek the UN's involvement for the provision of humanitarian assistance, the official request is to be sent to the UN chief by Pakistan's head of government (prime minister) or head of state (president) or it has to be addressed to the UN's resident coordinator in Pakistan by the prime minister's secretariat.        

Over three dozen villages in the central Punjab's rural belt extending from district Pasrur to Sialkot have been worst affected by the floodwaters. The District Coordination Officer (DCO) Sialkot Zahid Gondal said, the rural populations in the riverian areas have been relocated to the safer locations.

"There was abrupt rise in water level in Nullah Dek that's a major tributary in Pasrur, which caused low intensity flood. The people living in the surrounding areas and adjoining belt of the Nullah have been moved to alternative locations. The situation is under control now. We are making extensive arrangements in coordination with the Provincial Disaster Management Authority in case there are more rains," he told this newspaper.