Much needs to be done to manage disasters
IN recent years, Pakistan has seen much death and destruction at the hands of natural calamities such as floods and tremors, making it imperative to have integrated and innovative approach to guard the people against them. According to estimates, during the last six years, overall damages due to floods alone have been almost equal to the total damages in the preceding sixty years. With experts declaring the country more vulnerable to climate change, large floods and drought, there is need to step up efforts to fully equip the relevant authorities with human and material resources to mitigate the effects of these disasters with well thought out planning and execution. Addressing an international conference in Rawalpindi, President Mamnoon Hussain called for capacity building of institutions like NDMA to better cope with the future disasters. The NDMA was set up shortly after the 2005 earthquake that killed at least 84, 000 people in northern parts of the country, to act as the implementing, coordinating and monitoring body for disaster management. What the government wanted was an NDMA that stands ready to preempt and respond to natural disasters as they occur. Did it get it? Opinions vary but in most of the cases, the authority lagged behind from its stated objectives and responsibilities vis- à- vis reducing or avoiding the potential losses from hazards, assuring prompt and appropriate assistance to victims and achieving their rapid and effective recovery. Every year, the NDMA works out a monsoon contingency plan but still we see the vulnerable people becoming victim of the rain triggered floods. At the Provincial level also, the disaster management authorities were set up but these also lack proper coordination, expertise and suffer from poor governance. Considering the recent devastation caused by rains, the government is in the process of producing a ten year flood protection plan worth over Rs 177 billion which envisages reduction in damages through mapping of flood plains and significant improvements in relief and rescue operations. We expect that best practices will be adopted to prevent and mitigate the effects of floods. We will urge the Provincial governments to establish disaster management authorities at each district level and provide them with the sufficient resources to save the people from calamities. Services of college students could also be utilized by providing necessary training to them in counter disaster measures.