CASE STUDY: NAS/USAID Geospatial Assessment Study for Floods in Pakistan Threatening Agricultural Communities and Biodiversity

Geospatial Assessment of Flood Disaster Impacts and Mitigation Planning – Superfloods in Pakistan Threatening Agricultural Communities and Biodiversity:
This geospatial study was conducted as a continuation of the Geographical Information System (GIS) applications that Dr. Uddin has been developing for the Pakistan transportation project which was funded on the US-side by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS)/ United States Agency for International Development (USAID), 2007-2010.

Vector and Raster GIS Maps of Pakistan, NAS/USAID Transportation Project (Uddin)

As the US-side Principal Investigator and Project Director, I used high resolution satellite imagery with geospatial and GIS tools extensively in the USAID project. This remote sensing approach offers the following applications:

  • Global monitoring is possible for nearly any site on the earth using high resolution satellite imagery at relatively low cost per area in comparison to traditional aerial photography and photogrammetry technologies.
  • The use of GIS databases and geospatial analysis tools are crucial for easy-to-understand visualization of the landuse, wetlands, deforestation, urban growth, inventory and condition data of transportation and public infrastructure assets, and disaster impact assessment.
  • GIS inventory of educational and health centers for planning of emergency management during disasters.
  • GIS database and planimetrics for inventory and monitoring of forestry, agricultural land, gas/oil and other natural resources.
  • Nonintrusive exploration and monitoring of ecological diversity, wildlife habitat, and archeological sites using GIS base maps and terrestrial remote sensing data.
  • GIS visualization of project inventory, monitoring of funds, and progress of disaster recovery, infrastructure restoration and rebuilding, and community development projects.

Without proper planning and due to increasing frequency of torrential rain during monsoon season in Pakistan in recent years, large scale flood disasters are threatening the lives agricultural land and communities in rural areas, the environment, natural cycle of the ecosystem, and rich biodiversity along the plains of River Indus. Large agricultural land areas are victims of unwanted flood floodwater discharge in the vicinity of Guddu, Sukkur, and Kotri Barrages in the lower Indus River valley.

Sukkur Barrage Over Indus River, Superflood 2010, Pakistan (Credit: Dr. Raza Bhatti, Engineer Zarif Khero)

The annual discharge data from 1932-2010 at Sukkur Barrage shows moderate to high level of flooding every 6-8 years when the peak discharge exceeds 0.5 million cu ft/sec. The peak discharge at Guddu Barrage was 1.15 million cusec on August 8, 2010, compared to its design discharge of 1.2 million cusec and the record 1.199 million cusec in 1976 (data courtesy of Engineer Zarif Khero). Since 1947 there have been 11 events of peak discharge above one million cu ft/sec every 2-10 years, which is a good indicator of severe future flooding. It shows that that 2010 superflood was something new but the damage is more now due to construction of new highways with insufficient drainage and bridges to facilitate the fast passage of floodwater. The densely populated cities in the Sindh province along the River are especially at risk (see GIS maps).
Pakistan Superflood GIS Map, 2010 (showing minor, major, catastrophic flooded areas -- Uddin)

Key data related to the 2010 superflood and results of geospatial analysis (M.S. research of M. Miah directed by Dr. Uddin) follow:

  • Flooding started on July 26, 2010 following heavy monsoon rain.
  • Rivers overflowed their banks as floodwaters from the upper Indus River basin flowed southward toward the Arabian Sea.
  • About 2,000 people perished.
  • More than 21 million people became homeless.
  • More than one-third of country’s total land was under flood water.
  • Flood hazard risk for about 2,433 miles of highways and 3,508 miles of railway network located in flooded areas.
  • Agricultural land filled with flood waters delayed cultivation.
  • Economic loss estimated at US$ 43 billion (news reports).

The 2010 superflood submerged about 37% of Pakistan under flood waters and again after the 2011 flood most of Sindh has been under flood water. These disastrous flood events are destructive to the economy of all of Pakistan. The flood related damaged highways and railways disrupt the transport of industrial outputs and essential commodities from the port megacity of Karachi to the rest of the country and across the western border to the land locked Afghanistan.

As a part of my GIS workforce development training and geospatial technology lectures during USAID-Pakistan project trip in early July 2010 I had an opportunity to speak at Shah Abdul Latif University (SALU)-Centre for Biodiversity and Conservation (CBC) and visit Sukkur Barrage. Based on my interviews and newspaper reports I observed:

  • No flood prediction and spatial mapping of flood risk areas
  • No updated floodplain and landuse maps in populated areas
  • No early flood warning system to alert communities at risk
  • No GIS Decision support system for coordinated flood water mitigation management in the Indus River Basin Irrigation System
  • Inadequate coordination of community preparedness, recovery planning, and disaster response management centers at local, state, and national levels

Sukkur City Inundated During 2010 Superflood, Pakistan (Credit: Sukkur Barrage Engineer Zarif Khero, January 1, 2011)
There is an urgent need to assist Pakistani institutions and decision makers at federal and provincial levels in achieving self-reliance, meet challenges of periodic flooding hazard risks, minimize loss of lives and property, advance the emergency response management system, and enhance sustainable quality of life by improving management of water resources and flood disaster mitigation. I recommend a comprehensive framework for coping with torrential rainfall every monsoon season, risk mapping, protecting communities and biodiversity, and managing flood water resources. The details are not provided here for brevity.

Dr. Uddin’s note: The satellite imagery based geospatial methodology facilitates rapid and accurate assessment of disaster impacts, recovery, and effective mitigation planning. My 2010 progress report of the National Academies/USAID funded University project describes this information and other geospatial products implemented for Pakistan. The non-intrusive remote sensing methodology is also applicable for evaluating extent of flooding damage, vulnerability of inhabited built-environment, and mitigation planning. The topics discussed in this post are described in more details in the following papers:
Uddin, W. (2010). Flooding, Ecological Diversity, and Wildlife Habitat Studies by Geospatial Visualization and Remote Sensing Technologies. Keynote Lecture. Proceedings, International Conference on “Biodiversity is Our Life,” Center for Biodiversity and Conservation, Shah Abdul Latif University, Khairpur (Mir’s), Sindh, Pakistan, December 29, 2010, (Editors: G. Raza Bhatti and Shireen Akhtar Soomro). Keynote Lecture
Uddin, W. (2011). Transportation Management: LiDAR, Satellite Imagery Expedite Infrastructure Planning. Earth Imaging Journal, January/February 2011, pp. 24-27.

You may be interested to read other posts related to the NAS/USAID-Pak transportation project (2007-2010):

USAID Transportation Management Project – Tsunami Simulation for Karachi Port Area, Pakistan Using Geospatial Analysis
Urban Transportation Policy for Pakistani Metropolitan Cities
Satellite Imagery Based Mapping of Road Network, Traffic Demand, and GHG Emissions

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