More than 138 million people in the Indus River Basin in Pakistan depend on irrigated agriculture for their livelihoods, with the cultivated areas encompassing about 14 million hectares in the floodplains of the Indus River and its five main tributaries. But problems such as rising population pressures, climate change, and a continuous degradation of ecosystem services have resulted in increased flood risks, which are further exacerbated by inadequate flood planning and management. Pakistan suffered from 21 major floods between 1950 and 2011—almost 1 flood every 3 years. These floods have killed a total of 8,887 people, damaged or destroyed 109,822 villages, and caused economic losses amounting to $19 billion. On average, the annual flood damage from 1960 to 2011 was about 1% of the mean annual GDP. The devastating 2010 flood caused the highest damage of all in terms of economic costs: about $10 billion.
The Government of Pakistan has been relying on a traditional flood control approach based on structural measures, but the 2010 flood exposed the inherent weaknesses of this approach. A shift from traditional flood management to a contemporary holistic approach could more effectively mitigate the flood risks, and provide an additional source of freshwater for productive use. This report proposes such an approach, which would operate within an integrated water-resources- management framework.
Evolved from 6 decades of flood management experience in the basin, this approach applies scientific assessments that take people, land, and water into account. It also includes planning and implementation realized through appropriate policies, enforceable laws, and effective institutions. I am confident that, with proper adaptation to the Indus Basin realities, this report will serve as an important guide for flood management in the Indus Basin.