Much needs to be done to man­age dis­as­ters

Pakistan Observer - - EDITORIALS & COMMENTS -

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.

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