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Disaster Management in Pakistan

On 26th October this year, thirty six trapped Chilean mine workers were rescued by drilling a deep hole into the mine. A month later, twenty nine mine workers in Newzeland died after remaining trapped for days in a mine. Poor disaster management cost precious lives.

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In Pakistan, too, Disaster management is not up to the mark. Be it the devastating earthquake, the catastrophic floods, the outbreak of fires or the aftermath of bomb blasts, the management was very poor.

Certain measures like National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA), and Rescue 1122 were taken but none has borne fruit yet. Lack of funds, scarcity of men and machinery, lack of awareness and preparedness of general public, hard demography, negative role of media, and delocalization of disaster management centers has added to the calamity of disasters. A realistic approach, proper training to workers and public, localization of disaster management centers, public awareness programs and positive role of media must be ensured for the proper disaster management in Pakistan.

Until now almost every disaster has hit Pakistan but the required response is given to none. The October, 2008 earthquake in Northern areas of Pakistan is a grim reminder of the scale of disaster. Almost eighty thousand people died and many towns devastated. Though, no single government with limited resources can cope with such a calamity, yet our government’s response was much late in the hard hit areas. Timely and efficient response could have saved many lives.

The recent floods of July-August have also seen the demonstration of poor disaster management in our country. Though, no country is prepared for such devastating floods, our government’s response could be much better. Instead of helping the people in the affected areas, our government set all their attention in appealing for aids to other countries and arranging conferences for the donor countries. The fire management is also much poor. Few months ago when fire broke out in a female hostel in Rawalpindi, the management did not have the ecessary tools to bring the situation under control. Moreover, the aftermath of bomb blasts also shows that our country is not prepared to cope with the disaster-like situation. One of the main cause of this pathetic situation of our disaster management is that the workers are not properly trained to cope with any disasters. In other countries, proper training is provided to the workers in one field to cope with that particular disaster. Unfortunately in Pakistan, the same workers are hired for every disaster to cope with.

Most of our disaster management organizations are not provided with sufficient staff and machinery. The workers are much less as compared to the scale of the disaster. Also, the workers do not have all the necessary equipments to deal a disaster. Moreover, the facilities like fast transport to the disaster point are also lacking. Our uneven demography also plays a big hurdle in efficient disaster management. Sometimes, the areas hit by a disaster are out of reach, thus, badly affecting the rescue activities. Hard demography also adds to the scale of a disaster.

Even a minor disaster results into a bigger loss of life and property because of the demography of our country. This was observed in the recent floods whose originating point was the northern areas and brought devastations in other parts of the country. Delocalization of disaster management units is another cause of poor disaster management in Pakistan. All the units are controlled from the federal or provincial capitals which may become a hurdle in dealing with a disaster in time. Unawareness and unpreparedness of the general public is also one of the reason for poor disaster management.

Our people do not know how to deal with a disaster when they are caught with. People, sometimes, use methods which may increase the scale of a disaster instead of controlling it. Also, most of the people are unprepared to deal with a sudden disaster which results into many losses. Lack of funds with the disaster management units is also a case of poor dealing with a disaster. The disaster management organizations do not have sufficient funds to buy the machinery necessary to deal with a disaster.

In order to deal effectively with any disaster in Pakistan, the government must provide proper training to workers. This is how they can deal with a disaster professionally. Moreover, the government should confer proper funds to disaster management units. All the disaster management units must be delocalized. Disaster management unit in Chitral must not be monitored from Islamabad or Peshawar. A local management body can effectively deal with a local disaster. Public training programs must be initiated so that the general public is aware how to deal with a disaster.

The youths must be trained in particular areas of disasters, like fire, flood, so that that can be called whenever such disaster emerges. Moreover, special television programs should be aired to aware the people how to deal with a disaster effectively. Disaster management plays a big role in a country like Pakistan where disasters are most frequent. Though, in the past much attention was not given to disaster management in the country, the government must implement the above mentioned suggestions in latter and spirit to cope well with any disaster in future.