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Pakistan Plugs Flood Defenses as Farmers Face Months Off Land

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Aug. 30 (Bloomberg) -- Pakistan plugged flood defenses near a southern city as officials warned that with farmland unlikely to be fit for cultivation for at least six months massive aid was needed to prevent social unrest.

The abandoned city of Thatta, deep in the Indus River delta region, is no longer under threat of being swamped, Khair Muhammad Kalwar, director of operations at Sindh province’s Provincial Disaster Management Authority, said by phone. “Right now our worries are focused on Dadu,” Kalwar said of a city 225 kilometers (140 miles) north of Karachi. “The water has entered into its districts and if the flow increases, it will affect 600,000 people.”

About 17.2 million people have lost homes and livelihoods to monthlong floods that have killed 1,542 people, the United Nation’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has said. With farmland inundated across a fifth of Pakistan at the flood peak and roads and bridges washed away, economic growth may be slashed in half this year, Pakistani finance officials say.

“Sindh will remain under threat for the next two to three days,” Muhammad Riaz, the chief meteorologist in Karachi, said in a telephone interview. “After that, the water will start losing its force and intensity, which will be enough to stop the erosion and breaches of protective walls.”

Textile Tariffs

Lower tides in the Arabian Sea have raised hopes that floodwaters will recede significantly this week, Riaz said. Still, villagers face months in relief shelters as water drains away, said Kalwar.

“We are looking at a human catastrophe which will turn into social unrest if these people are not helped immediately,” Kalwar said. “The affected agricultural lands will not be available for any form of cultivation for the next six months.”

Donors have given about $325 million of nearly $460 million sought in a UN appeal, the BBC reported last week. An extra $600 million has been provided or pledged outside the appeal, the broadcaster said, citing the UN’s emergency relief coordinator, John Holmes.

As part of efforts to salvage the Pakistan economy, European Union officials are considering helping Pakistan’s flood-stricken economy by offering reduced tariffs for its textile exports, the Financial Times reported, citing EU and Pakistani officials.

Catherine Ashton, the EU’s high commissioner in charge of foreign affairs, will raise the question of easing market access for Pakistan at a meeting of European foreign ministers next week, the newspaper said.

Malaria Cases

“Sindh has so far lost 450 billion rupees ($5.25 billion) in government infrastructure, crops and private property,” said Kalwar. “Almost 1.9 million acres of crops have been destroyed in Sindh alone. Thousands of rice mills, cotton mills, cottage industries have gone down.”

With millions of people on the move since the flooding began in late July in the northwest, emergency relief efforts have struggled to keep pace. The heads of the United Nations Children’s Fund and the World Food Programme will brief reporters in Islamabad, Pakistan’s capital, tomorrow after visiting flood-affected areas.

Suspected cases of malaria are increasing in Baluchistan and Sindh provinces, the World Health Organization said. On Aug. 28, reported cases of suspected malaria comprised 27 percent of patient consultations in both Baluchistan and Sindh, the Geneva-based UN agency said in an e-mailed statement.

“We expect another 1.5 million people will be affected by the flood now heading towards Dadu” with little to block its path, said Fawad Hussain, a Sindh-based UN humanitarian affairs officer.

To contact the reporter on this story: Khurrum Anis in Singapore at Kkhan14@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Bill Austin at billaustin@bloomberg.net

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