Catastrophe or mismanagement | By Dr Abdus Sattar Abbasi

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Catastrophe or mismanagement

PAKISTAN is not even among top 100 countries which are subject to maximum rainfall. The country at the hundredth slot receives rain double to Pakistan according to the data of last 60 years average.

But the scale of devastation during floods in Pakistan always remains miserable.

When we talk about the extent of destruction we don’t consider the element of mismanagement the whole nation is subject to at the moment.

In these times flood is a kind of disaster which doesn’t knock your doors with surprise, there is always sufficient information available prior to the floods.

We were expecting the same kind of calamity, we issued alerts, we ensured announcements, we identified danger zones, we forced evacuations; it means we were fully aware of the severity of expected floods.

But we still failed to save precious lives despite hours before they were swept by the merciless flood waves. We remained unsuccessful in extending quick response to the victims.

Principally if we were aware of the emergence of the flood, it would have been appropriate to have helicopters and evacuation boats ready with search lights, life jackets and other necessary equipment to execute rapid rescue operation on the entire expected route of the flood.

I think, there is absolutely nothing as ‘quick rescue response’ even in the procedures of defence forces of Pakistan.

We didn’t notice any visible quick response from defence forces during first two days of the flood.

Army is a disciplined yet extremely capable organization in the country to handle catastrophe of this scale but they can’t respond as long as there is any established mechanism to provide quick and immediate rescue operation.

After two days there was visible rescue operation by the defence forces which saved several lives.

If there had been any mechanism for quick rescue operation in the defence forces we could have probably saved even more lives including those five young friends and an old age person in the KP who lost their lives in two different incidents during the flood.

Still miseries of people in the south of the country on a usual route after weeks of flood’s initial emergence are making a mockery of the abilities of institutions established for disaster prevention and management.

We all feel saddened looking at buildings and hotels washed away by the flood but none of us identified departments and authorities responsible to ensure safe constructions.

Why relevant departments failed to stop these constructions. Did they issue any warning to these buildings?

If they didn’t, there is a huge question mark on their ability to ensure safe construction in vulnerable sites on river-banks and areas subject to excessive land sliding.

We all shared several videos of vehicles swept away in the flood but no one demanded to penalize people and departments who are responsible for road safety, to put visible signs and water gauges with clear instructions not to enter in the stream of prohibited scale.

Several dams have been breached in Balochistan but there is not even a single voice to condemn the entire process and design to build such vulnerable water reservoirs which eventually aggravated the degree of devastation while consuming exceptional resources for these structures.

The glaring mismanagement is also evident while looking at the tenders of National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA).

We all started listening about unprecedented monsoon season in Pakistan from May onwards this year but NDMA failed to notice this phenomenon.

Detail of tenders from May onwards by the NDMA at their website suggests engagement of the authority in renovation & maintenance of premises & vehicles, tax consultancy, procurement of Almirah and jerry cans by the end of July 2022.

It was August when destructions of flood lost their peaks the NDMA issued an ‘emergency’ tender for family tents, look at the emergency of our Disaster Management Authority that when NGOs such as Al-Khidmat and Edhi have already arrived at every depth and breadth of the country, when relief goods have already reached from Turkey, UAE, China and Qatar, when masses have already extended their support to the victims then our specially-established institution issues ‘emergency’ for family tents on 27 August 2022.

Now the question is that will these tents be delivered within stipulated time because market is already short of tents, the answer is probably not.

The fate of this procurement seems the warehouse and if we don’t, and we pray we don’t, experience this degree of flood in near future the whole purchase will perhaps go in vain, which is a clear example of mismanagement that prevails in our institutions leading to the sufferings of this scale in case of any calamity.

I intentionally didn’t mention the name of a country at hundredth slot in terms of rains because people start taking about the development status while comparing countries.

Let’s take the example of Rajasthan which witnessed record rains this monsoon in decades, but the CM appeared in media and said that we stored enough water however five reservoirs still have the capacity to store further water.

According to estimates we lose water of worth 15 billion USD every year in addition to destructions repeatedly over the years but failed to build dams to store water to avoid severe floods, to produce less expensive electricity, to cultivate more agriculture land to meet food shortages and, above all, to ensure sustainability and security of Pakistan.

We need to reflect and determine that if we suffered to a catastrophe or our mismanagement at every level from the government, administration and masses at large to hinder strategic decisions to protect our motherland.

Besides relief and rehabilitation activities we should focus on establishing effective and efficient institutions and processes to avoid any mismanagement in case of catastrophe of scale in future.

—The writer is Associate Professor Management Sciences, Head, Centre of Islamic Finance, COMSATS University (CUI) Lahore Campus.

 

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