Extreme weather and lack of preparedness

Letter July 30, 2015
We can learn from our past mistakes and devise a comprehensive plan for minimising future damage

MIRPURKHAS: It is no longer rocket science to understand that climate, globally, is changing rapidly. Extreme weather conditions are causing catastrophes in various parts of the world; yet, the indifference of our authorities towards this conspicuous reality is bewildering. Lack of preparedness is manifested every time. Consider, for example, the recent heatwave in Karachi in which state functionaries failed, not only in providing life-saving treatment to affected people, but also failed to arrange a suitable place for burial of the dead. People were left to fend for themselves. Such a response further aggravates the situation and compounds the misery of sufferers.

While images of the heatwave havoc are still fresh in our memories, the weather has, yet again, demonstrated its rage in the form of flashfloods and torrential rains. Like previous similar events, the nature of damage is the same: lives lost; infrastructure destroyed; people displaced and normal life badly affected. Not surprisingly, this time, too, the state response is not dissimilar to previous ones: visits of our rulers to the affected areas, taking aerial views, making a show of distributing food among the affected people, issuing statements and indulging in the usual blame game.

Each time, promises are made about enhancing our capabilities to mitigate the negative effects of future calamities, but nothing is done practically. Once we are under the clouds, we are unabashedly told that it is the will of God to make us suffer and who we are to interfere in His affairs. Pakistan is not a poor country, but a poorly managed country. And, how poor our management is becomes apparent during such extreme conditions. We never give the impression that we are a proactive nation, preparing in advance and taking on the responsibility of safeguarding our land and our people from disasters. Indeed, there is no dearth of expert opinion on how to prepare for such natural phenomena. Of course, we cannot prevent them from recurring either. However, we can learn from our past mistakes and devise a comprehensive plan for minimising future damage. It is only the will of those at the helm of affairs that can make this happen. Let us make a commitment to not giving others the impression that we are a reactive nation that never learns from its past to prepare for the future.

Shakeel Ghouri

Published in The Express Tribune, July 31st,  2015.

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