Published Date: Jul 28, 2011
Oxfam’s report that Pakistan — a disaster-prone country which has experienced floods 67 times in the 64 years since its creation — is ‘still not prepared for another disaster has rippled through national and international aid agencies, heightening their concern over Pakistan’s vulnerability to natural disasters and failure to cope with them. But the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) has claimed that Pakistan is better placed to face floods this year.
A year onwards from the floods of 2010, national and international aid agencies which worked on the rehabilitation of the flood affected areas are busy publishing assessment reports and holding seminars and press conferences about Pakistan’s preparedness to face such disasters in the future. Recently, these events have been abuzz with discussions on the findings of the Oxfam report. Many officials and researchers associated with aid agencies were quite concerned about Pakistan’s failure in evolving a reliable damage mitigation and control system. Arshad Abassi, a water expert working with the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) endorsed the findings of the Oxfam report and said, “There are over 20 different government organizations in Pakistan, such as the water department, the environment ministry, and the metrology department etc. which, if coordinated together, could devise an effective disaster prediction and control system, but sadly this has not been done.” Abbasi added that the government was given Rs 3 billion by the World Bank for ‘capacity building’ in 2007 but disaster preparedness has still ‘remained zero’.
A flood researcher, Amir Zia said at the SDPI seminar ‘Floods 2010’, “The government has no interest at all in saving lives and mitigating losses. Leave the floods aside, look at the law and order situation in the country. It seems the government’s priorities have completely jettisoned the issues of the people.”
The Oxfam report has stated that minor floods in Pakistan during the years 2005-9 caused losses worth US $ 5 billion, while the floods of last year alone caused damages worth US $ 4 to 5. Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani, in his speech in the National Assembly on September 1, 2010 had noted that the losses of 2010 floods could cause a decline in the GDP growth of up to 2.5 percent.
According to Oxfam, the government could reduce losses substantially by spending just Rs 27 million- an amount less than the last two years worth of expenses of the members of the National Assembly, which amounted to Rs 32 million- on preventive measures.
UN officials have not yet made any statements on Pakistan’s preparedness for floods as they are not willing to make any comments prior to the issuance of their own report which is being launched today (Thursday). But a World Food Program official who wished to remain anonymous said, “We are concerned because Pakistan’s priorities do not match its needs.”
NDMA spokesman, Ahmed Kamal, said that forecasts reveal that this year rains would be less and that NDMA is better prepared for floods in any case. When questioned if he considered the Oxfam report misleading, he said, “I will not call it misleading but I will definitely say that this year inter-departmental coordination and preparedness is much better than that of the last year.”