Ecological Disasters: The Political Economy Of Floods In Pakistan

Wednesday, July 16, 2014: 3:45 PM
Room: Booth 48
Oral Presentation
Tarique NIAZI , University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, Eau Claire, WI
Ecological Disasters: The Political Economy of Floods in Pakistan


In 2010-11, Pakistan was struck by two successive flood disasters that wrought massive destruction all across the country, especially three of its provinces that sit ashore the Indus River—Punjab, Pakhtunkhwa and Sindh. Thousands of people were killed, while twenty million, mostly rural residents of Pakistan’s farmbelt, were displaced from their homes and hearths. The dollar value of these losses was estimated at $20bn, which was 10% of Pakistan’s GDP. The state and its institutions failed to live up to their obligations to protect the citizens during or after the disaster. Their role, however, goes back to the very making of the disaster that arose from the flawed pattern of development.  This project, thus, explores the economic and power relations in society that “manufacture” such disasters. In particular, it explores the “man-made” aspect of Pakistan’s floods that were presented by the state and its institutions as a “natural” disaster. The paper seeks to embed the disaster in Pakistan’s political economy that broadly manifests in its development patterns. In this regard, three empirical indices are chosen to document the development pattern that best explains the flood disasters: (a) diversion of the Indus waters in massive damming; (b) loss of wetlands to the building of dams; and (c) deforestation in the mountainous regions of northwest Pakistan, which was caused by development as well as timber industry.