By Fida Ul Karim
The nation will be commemorating 8th October as the National Disaster Awareness Day as it is a part of this nation’s character which is powered into action when a catastrophe hits, in most of its history.
A monumental sense of comradeliness prevailed across the breath and wide of the country on the day of huge shaking in 2005 in which thousands of people perished in Azad Jammu and Kashmir, northern areas and parts of the country.
There was no government department dedicated to deal with natural disasters, proactively before the shaking. Calamity act 1958 mostly administered post disaster relief, recovery and rehabilitation.
The world and the nation across Pakistan sprang to humanitarian action to deal with the huge tragedy and many banned outfits also stepped in which could not be contained during emergency situations. Such are the circumstances when unlawful organizations exploit weaknesses of the government and take root among the community, the same also goes in disaster response and rehabilitation efforts in the remote and backward areas.
With the creation of National Disaster Management Authority the Provincial Disaster Management Authorities were established in all provinces, disaster risk reduction being one of its core function, as a result, disaster management has been shifted merely from response to disaster awareness, mitigation and preparedness.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, which is most prone to different manifestations of natural calamities i.e land slide, glacier avalanche, flash flood, GLOF, river erosion and earthquake, the Authority was renamed in districts as District Disaster Management Unit (DDMU) instead of the Authority.
DDMU’s role largely remains strengthening coordination among government lines departments ,NGOs, INGOs, civil society organizations and giving evolving policy input and policy implementation, regarding disaster management activities. Augmenting and revitalization of line departments to huge challenges of natural disasters in the given resource constraints scenario require renewed efforts and commitments. Political maneuvering and alienation from laid down rules on the part of local representatives hardly help fair and impartial policy implementation.
According to reports the phenomenon of climate change is affecting the mountainous region of Hindukush-Himalaya,-which hold most of the glaciers of the world outside polar continent with greater impact. If the glaciers which play an important role in atmospheric and hydrological cycle of the world and specially, in the South Asians region, melt with the rate of 40-60km per decade as reported, than it is not too late that the area may go bereft of most of its sources of life sustaining activities such as agriculture, productive grazing lands and fishing etc.
It is true that spending hundred rupees in preparation will definitely save your thousand rupees loss in disaster emergencies but it suits those who heeds to the natural as well as manmade transformations on the Mother Planet.
It would not be wrong to state that in most of the time of emergencies, political expediency caused more harm than benefits. During the earthquake of 2015 billions of rupees were disbursed among the affected communities of Chitral within two days as ordered by the than Prime Minister, which virtually goes against the logic of a sound disaster response as damage assessment in such a short time could not be done without major flaws.
International Union of Nature Conservation puts Chitral as most prone district in KP to natural disasters, which have ruined a substantial part of almost every village of this district.
According to surveys there are almost 52 highly vulnerable glacier lakes in northern areas including Chitral.
A successful implementation of GLOF project in the most neglected and extremely vulnerable community of Bindo Gole area ,with the help of Ministry of Climate change has created a great deal of awareness and confidence among the community in terms of early warning facility in case of threat of Glof disaster but initiation of its subsequent phase remains a dire need to fulfil its main objective.
NGOs like Aga Khan Rural Support Program, Aga Khan Agency for Habitat etc under the umbrella of AKDN have been successful in creating enabling environment for community development by ensuring community participation and mobilization regarding developmental activities but sustainability factor of the projects remains a crucial debating issue.
The life time of even most sound projects does not exceeds a few years due to unpredictable and ill patterned natural calamities, thanks to global warming and its debilitating impact in the mountainous region.
The component of disaster risk and vulnerability in any development schemes needs to be properly assessed and viability of the projects ensured by building capacity of DDMU and stringent government oversight maintained otherwise it is feared the government and donors funded schemes would not be able to bear the required fruits.
The phenomenal influx of NGOs in the region has caused a kind of dependency syndrome besides benefits, among other wise hard working and resilient community at the cost of harnessing their local potential and standing on their own feet .Sustainable social, economic and environmental development is the key of nations efforts as per Heyogo framework of action 2005 to which Pakistan is a signatory.
Disasters at any part of the world owe its contribution from across the world due to uncontrolled global emissions and its subsequent repercussions, therefore, a shared responsibility of all stakeholders i-e donor agencies, international NGOs, civil society organizations, local community, volunteers and every responsible citizen.
The message can only get across if regular workshops, awareness sessions, training, and mutual exchange is maintained among the stakeholders which can’t be achieved as long as support and meaningful ownership is extended by upper administrative hierarchy, governments and United Nations members states.
(The writer is District Disaster Management Officer