Towards Sustainable Flood Risk Management in the North-West Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan: A Flood Vulnerability Assessment Approach

Vulnerability assessment is an important component of flood risk reduction. The north-west Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan is a highly vulnerable region to seasonal and flash floods. Due to changes of climate and socio-economic activities, flood vulnerability is increasing. The assessment of flood vulnerability in the area has received very little attention at district level, where the majority of the administrative decisions takes place. At local scale very few studies exist that are related to flood vulnerability. However, these studies have limitations while using an indicator-based approach. Hence the aims of this study are 1) to develop flood vulnerability indices in a transparent and reliable manner and 2) to assess the flood vulnerability of the area at two scales. A deductive approach is applied to build a composite indicator for flood vulnerability using a step-wise procedure. First, the flood vulnerability assessment was performed for the nine flood prone districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, which were selected based on the reports of Provincial Disaster Management Authority and dataset availability. The methodology is downscaled to the community households’ level by selecting the two main districts of Peshawar vale. Seven rural villages were randomly selected from these two districts after a thorough literature analysis and personal visits. Data were retrieved from various sources and especially from official publicly accessible portals that are best suited for assessing district level flood vulnerability and through a household survey for assessing local-scale flood vulnerability assessment. The findings of the study facilitate a vivid image of different districts and communities that might be situated in approximately similar geographical conditions with varying levels of flood vulnerability. Identifying the flood vulnerability profiles of these hotspots together with their underlying factors can help to take appropriate initiatives to reduce the existing flood risk. These analyses will facilitate the discussion about the development of sustainable flood risk management practices and will provide a background for extending the methodology to other flood-prone areas. However, there are several limitations in such kind of studies. From the current study it can be concluded that it is crucial to construct such an index of flood vulnerability that is not only intuitive to a variety of stakeholders, but also scientifically justified. It must be fairly simple in construction and comprehension to its technical and non-technical users to reduce the subjectivity issue, which is one of the main problems in the reliability of flood vulnerability indicators. Trying to apply such an approach at varying spatial scales can reduce time, resources and provide a common ground for faster comprehension, modification, and updating of flood vulnerability indices. Further, it enhances the transparency and reduces the gap between policy and sciences. Providing the flood vulnerability indices as an open tool to the end users for different experimentation is a strength and not a limitation. Vulnerability is closely related to sustainability since both are related to system or society's resilience to disturbance. A robust vulnerability assessment can support a sustainable flood risk management.


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