The areas affected by the earthquake of 2005 are in many instances still in recovery mode. There are even families in remote areas still living in the blue plastic tents that have been their temporary homes since the disaster. In the days and weeks afterwards a total of $6.2 billion were pledged to help Pakistan with aid and relief as well as the necessary rebuilding. Some of the money pledged was used to set up the Earthquake Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Authority (ERRA). The ERRA has been the subject of consistent criticism since for alleged maladministration of funds and failure to complete — or in some instances even start — the projects that today form its core task. Turkey, Japan and the United Arab Emirates and even Cuba (in the form of medical staff) all pitched in to help the survivors rebuild their lives.
Japan has been particularly supportive in terms of infrastructure projects, one of which was inaugurated on August 20, 2014. The elegantly curving Naluchi-Chattar suspension bridge spans the Jhelum river and was funded by the Japan Bank of International Cooperation (JBIC). It is 60 metres above the river and 246 metres long — as well as being at least two years late, a feature of so many post-quake projects. The bridge will do much to ease peak-time traffic congestion in Muzaffarabad and is a welcome addition to the civic infrastructure.
Although nearly nine years have passed since the quake across much of the affected region, health and education services, roads, water supply and sanitation and waste management have yet to reach pre-quake standards and in some cases remain far below. It is accepted that recovery from such a massive natural event was never going to be quick, easy or cheap but the old dangers of corruption, poor administration and shoddy work done on the cheap have all had their fingers on the recovery phase. The education system lost 7,000 schools, 900 teachers and 18,000 pupils on that fateful morning. The human debt can never be repaid, but it is shameful that the regeneration of the school system lags so far behind. There remains much to do.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 22nd, 2014.
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