Water and development experts called upon the government to take timely measures for mitigation of expected damages that floods could bring in the coming months.
They expressed disappointment over the present situation of preparedness and suggested more coordination among the institutions developed to manage disaster situation. They pointed out that the infrastructure and protection mechanism for people living in vulnerable localities is still not sufficient to manage any disaster in the country.
They were speaking at a roundtable conference titled ‘The Agenda of Equality and Broader Citizenship Rights: Revisiting the Case of Flood Affectees,’ organised by the Pakistan Institute of Education and Labour Research (PILER) and Sungi Development Foundation on Friday.
In his presentation, Deputy Chief of South Asian Partnership Pakistan Irfan Mufti discussed in detail the future threats of weather disaster in Pakistan. He said that Pakistan has entered a zone of climate change and extraordinary weather conditions in past decade are the result of that shift. He pointed out lack of realisation of that change among responsible quarters.
Mufti further mentioned that the expected floods would bring third cycle of flood disaster in the country with affected community of last floods still waiting for proper rehabilitation. He pointed out that sufficient budget has not been allocated for the disaster response mechanism both at federal and provincial level for the next financial year.
He recommended the government to make all disaster management institutional fully functional especially at provincial and district level with better legal mechanisms. He suggested the government to store food and basic items for any untoward situation and urged broader coordination among stakeholders. Mufti said the public expects more efficient government response in relief and rehabilitation but contrary to that, the level of preparedness is the same as it was last year.
Specialist on social development, Planning Commission, Najmuddin Najmi talked about the situation of social security services in the country and suggested that these services must be extended to common people so that flood affectees and vulnerable groups can benefit from them. Currently, he said, these services are available only for the labour in formal sector.
He suggested combining existing social security programs and developing a national policy for universal coverage. Najmi said that a strong political will is required to establish a strong social security system in the country and civil society has an important role to campaign for such a system.
Development expert and researcher Shahnaz Rouse raised some basic questions regarding the implementation of human rights guaranteed by the constitution. She said that political parties claim to work for basic rights but when asked how they plan to achieve their objectives, they usually have no answer. She was of the opinion that disasters are the reflection of acute crisis. Development Expert Mustafa Talpur talked about the structural issues that lead to the disaster after 2010 and 2011 floods. She said that there is permanent state of emergency for communities living coastal belt. “They are migrating, changing their profession and the priceless flora and fauna of the areas has been destroyed due to faulty water management policies of the state,” he said adding that only rich class was benefited from those policies.
He said that the government has no choice but to open the natural routes of water to retain the flow of water in the right direction.
Senator Hasil Bazinjo argued that until and unless politicians succeed in turning the country from security to welfare state, citizenship rights cannot be guaranteed. He said that those in the government or decision-making level do not recognize environment or social security as an issue.