ISLAMABAD: Every year, floods wreak havoc across the country. Our so-called welfare state is unable to resolve this gigantic problem. The recent floods have affected over one million people, exposing the widening gap between different institutions and their inability to effectively respond to emergencies. Given that there is a likelihood of flooding every year due to torrential monsoon rains, the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) and the Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) should have convened to formulate policies. Unfortunately, the psychological mindset of our stakeholders is elitist, instead of service-oriented. They seem ignorant of peoples’ suffering. Some of the causes of floods are lack of proper urban management, no solid waste management system, no scientific utilisation of planning, unrestricted dumping of solid waste and illegal sand mining. Settlement of people near rivers has also added to the plethora of problems. To solve the issue, the federal and provincial governments should allocate a generous amount of resources to disaster management, inter alia, implementation of disaster reduction strategies, policies, laws and regulation by streamlining all institutions. Engagement of all state institutions is vital in this regard.
Similarly, land-use policy development and implementation is sine qua non for disaster reduction. There are many sewages passing through the biggest cities of Pakistan, which are continuously damaging the lives and assets of people. The government should make alternative arrangements for the people living near the sewages and resettle them so as to decrease their risk of being exposed to diseases or other harm. With the establishment of proper housing plans and development of building codes, the government can significantly reduce damages. The federal government should also empower local authorities via decentralisation and allocate resources for the proper formulation and implementation of policies. Needless to say, training of government officials is a prerequisite to honing the skills needed to manage scientifically, make decisions and formulate prescient policies. Similarly, there must be proper accounting of disaster risk in the form of scientific collection of data, manuals, mapping standards, operating procedures and estimates. There must also be proper coordination between the NDMA and the PDMAs for coherent policies and sustainable development. Lastly, there must be technical assessment of flood impacts on agriculture, health, housing and education. With the help of these assessments, it will be easy for district administrators to resettle flood-affected people.
Muhammad Wajid Munir
Published in The Express Tribune, August 21st, 2015.