In spite of the government’s claims to build back better, most plans for new schools, hospitals and infrastructure remain on the drawing board, mainly due to financial crunch and delay in releasing funds. In contrast, nearly all national and international donor agencies have completed reconstruction and rehabilitation projects in earthquake-hit areas in Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK).
At the current pace, AJK authorities believe underfunding by the Pakistan government might cause an overrun in cost and time and delay reconstruction and rehabilitation activities by at least 20 years or maybe even beyond. This was said by Secretary State Earthquake Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Agency (SERRA) AJK, Dr Syed Asif Hussain, while briefing media persons on Thursdasy.
Hussain who is also director general SERRA said the Pakistan government had allocated Rs10 billion for earthquake-affected areas in the current fiscal year against the Rs50 billion requested by AJK, out of which only Rs1.5 billion was released. He said education and health have been the worst affected as Rs1.53 billion per year is required for projects. He said 8023 projects were approved for the reconstruction phase and 4370 projects were completed. Work is in progress on 2251 projects and 1402 projects have not been initiated due to financial constraints.
Sharing details, Hussain said out of 1854 education projects, 126 have been completed, 949 are under way and 779 have not yet taken off, while only six projects have been finalised out of 60 for health, 35 are in progress and 19 have not been initiated. There are 506 projects to restore livelihoods, out of which only 49 have been completed and 207 have been postponed. Out of six transport projects, none have been completed.
There are Rs700 million in liabilities on account of bills pending because funds were withheld in the past six months, he added. “Lack of human resources and sustainability of projects are amongst the biggest challenges we face in reconstruction and rehabilitation.” Hussain said AJK had witnessed the world’s biggest and most challenging rescue operation.
He said an area spread over 7000 square kilometres was affected, nearly half the state, in the 2005 earthquake, disrupting the lives of 1.80 million people. Some 977 villages were destroyed and 314,474 houses were damaged. The estimated loss in the private sector was Rs60.875 billion and Rs64.328 billion in the public sector. Donors had pledged $6.2 billion, all of which was disbursed during the early rescue, relief and reconstruction phase. Around $3 billion were spent on rescue and relief operations while the remaining was spent on reconstruction. Hussain informed the media that the ADB has finalised earthquake emergency projects at a cost of $1 billion. The bank provided $417 million to build earthquake-resistant houses which number more than 80 per cent and constructed over 300 schools and funded three big hospitals in AJK.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 23rd, 2011.
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