Two years on, the government is still unable to resettle flood survivors

NGOs say minorities are being discriminated against in relief operations.

Our Correspondent July 26, 2012


Flood victims of 2010 are still struggling to piece together their shattered lives as the government has failed to play its role in their rehabilitation, said members of the Sindh People’s Commission on Disaster Prevention and Management (SPCDMP), the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (PILER), and the Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum (PFF) on Thursday.

Over 20 million people were affected by the floods, while the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank put estimated damages to be Rs885 billion.

The SPCDMP is a platform for nearly 20 nongovernmental organisations that are working to rehabilitate flood victims in Sindh.

PILER’s Karamat Ali said that Sindh suffered the most because protective embankments at Tori in Kanhkot district and Molchand Surjani Bund in Thatta district had been ruptured. A large proportion of the area people were evacuated and shifted to internationally displaced persons (IDP) camps in cities such as Hyderabad and Karachi.

“When passing through main Super Highway, one can see hundreds of dirty tents and thatched hutments that line the area from Sabzi Mandi to Gulshan-e-Maymar,” said Ali. “Most of these flood victims had been shifted from districts in Upper Sindh, including Jacobabad, Shikarpur, Qamber-Shahdaklot, Kandhkot-Kashmor, Larkana, Dadu and Thatta.” Districts in lower Sindh, meanwhile, were devastated by floods in 2011.

While quoting statistics from a report released by the Social Policy Development Centre Sindh, Ali said that 26 percent, or two million household respondents did not possess any form of land at all, while another 700,000 households possessed only small pieces of land.

Members of the SPCDMP referred to the plight of farmers, who had lost all their crops due to the floods. Many of them had taken out took advance loans from landlords, which they were supposed to return after the harvesting season. “A large number of such agriculture workers lost their crops in 2010, but the landlords have not closed their account registers and are still demanding the repayment of the loans.”

Meanwhile, another issue stemming from the government’s inadequate response to the disaster was the discrimination that victims belonging to Hindu and other minority communities had to face. While referring to a report prepared by the Pakistan Dalit Solidarity Network, Ali said that non Muslims were being discriminated against when relief goods were distributed at IDP camps. A majority of Hindus were also not given cash compensation, in the form of “Watan Cards,” by the government too, said Ali.

A statement later issued by the SPCDMP criticised the government for reneging on its promise of allotting land to those IDPs who wanted to settle in Karachi, Hyderabad and other cities.

“The denial of access to education, health facilities and opportunity for earning decent livelihoods ensures that their [future] generations would remain marginalised.”

PFF’s Mohammad Ali Shah accused the government of not even rehabilitating the victims of the 1999 cyclone. “The government lacks a concrete contingency plan [for disaster managent], and I fear this monsoon could cause more damage,” he said.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 27th, 2012.