Repeating what it considers a successful strategy, the Sindh government has decided to issue Watan Cards to families in the 17 districts that have been affected by the torrential downpour. Five of these districts - Nawabshah, Badin, Mirpurkhas, Tando Muhammad Khan and Tando Allahyar - have been labelled ‘calamity-hit areas’.
Sindh Information Minister Sharjeel Inam Memon made the announcement at a joint press conference with the provincial rehabilitation minister Muzzafar Shujra, which was held at the CM House on Saturday.
The press briefing was preceded by a rain emergency meeting where disaster management authority, finance, planning and development and rehabilitation department officials discussed losses and funds required for relief and rescue operations.
According to Inam, 17 of Sindh’s 23 districts have been affected by the rain, rendering thousands of people homeless and causing damages to crops. Badin, Tharparkar and Nawabshah were the worst affected areas.
“A Watan Card worth Rs20,000 will be given to each affected family,” announced the minister.
Sindh will contribute Rs10,000 for the Rs20,000 Watan Card and will request the federal government to contribute the difference. Memon felt that the government’s Watan card strategy during the last flash floods was effective enough for them to use it again.
Committees comprising MPAs, MNAs and senators from both treasury and opposition benches are to be set up to monitor rescue, relief and rehabilitation activities. “Elected representatives of the concerned areas will be in-charge of the relief camp,” he said. “The government has decided to allocate Rs5 billion for rescue and relief in rain-hit areas.”
As for the existing relief efforts, the minister said that 878 camps have been established. Tax collection in the five calamity-hit districts will be suspended.
Memon announced that that a control room has been set up at the Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) office to monitor the situation around-the-clock. “We are assessing the real figures of rain victims because the rain is still continuing,” he said. “If needed, the government may divert development funds for the relief and rehabilitation of rain affected areas.”
Memon denied rumours that canal dykes have broken but confirmed that the Left Bank Outfall Drain (LBOD) has developed breaches in four places, flooding many villages. However, he assured the meeting that the breaches have been plugged.
In Badin and Nawabshah, army and navy personnel have been deployed for rescue operations and more will be sent if the situation worsens.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 4th, 2011.
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