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January 22, 2012

‘Floods have exposed govt machinery’s failure’


January 22, 2012

It shows the failure of the government machinery to deal with disasters killing hundreds of people as human right activists and other experts involved in rehabilitation of affected people are now asking the state to fulfil its duties in ensuring the right to life in Pakistan in accordance with the relevant constitutional provisions.
A seminar, titled, “Disaster Management, Development Structure Challenges and Capacity Issues”, jointly organised by Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (Piler) and Pakistan Fisherfolk’s Forum (PFF) at the PILER Centre discussed at length the question of protection of lives of citizens and failure of the institutions in Pakistan and concluded that there was dire to hold a continuous public debate on the issue of flood-affected people.
Senior economists, professionals, civil society experts, and those working on the relief and rehabilitation of flood-affected people noticed that the disasters occurred because of the failure of the state institutions.
The speakers underlined the aspects of the lives of the flood- and rain-affected people, their rehabilitation in relation to their citizenship rights, and a lack of adequate measures on the part of the State.
Dr Kaiser Bengali, a senior economist and former Advisor to the Sindh Chief Minister on Planning and Development, said that the Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) in Sindh remained ineffective during the recent floods.
Being Advisor, he said he visited the flood-affected areas in Kashmor and Shikarpur in 2010 and designed guidelines to build shelters to avoid losses in case of disasters in the future. Villages should have roads and drains to avert flooding. He said the provincial government constructed houses in model villages and provided brick roads and drains and during 2011 heavy rains and no flooding occurred there. He said that the district disaster management authorities were not effective in any district, which

caused problems in relief distribution.
According to him feudal power was based on the number of people who cultivated their lands and also voted for them. He suggested that the people should be shifted to urban centres through introduction of various skill programmes to offer alternative sources of income to reduce the feudal power.
He said Turkey, Iran, and other countries had offered to rebuild houses for the flood-affected people in Sindh but the government could not provide pieces of land because the volume of government land was meagre. Most land was occupied illegally, he said.
Karamat Ali, Piler Executive Director, said flood 2010 was the worst, and the government could not tackle the huge losses.
He argued that 2010 floods exposed existence of abject poverty in rural areas. A large number of people when displaced by the flood do not want to return to their areas because they did not have homes and they were under debt.
He deplored the fact that in 2010, the government did not allow direct relief from India, but asked to provide relief through UN. Naseer Memon, Head of Strengthening Partnership Organisation (SPO) said the country had more resources, which could be utilised in emergencies.
He said that a major portion of the tax revenue was spent on debt repayment and defence. He said every year public infrastructure budget is cut and defence budget is increased. “Until we make the state accountable the situation will not changed”, he remarked.
PFF Chairperson Mohammed Ali Shah said humanitarian organisations were busy in relief and early recovery of the affectees of 2010 floods, they faced 2011 flood, which caused more destruction and displacement. He said due to climate change and global warming the areas in Pakistan were prone to natural calamities.
He pointed out that the natural drains, waterways and parts of the River Indus had been encroached upon by certain influential persons.” He also discussed the remodeling plan of LBOD through diversions and increasing its capacity which, he said could be more disastrous for the ecology of Sindh.
Dr Manzoor Ahmed Awan, Director of Operation, Sungi Development Foundation speaking on the occasion said it is the government’s responsibility to ensure right to security to the people. Dr Tipu Sultan, President of Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) said his organisation played a key role to extend helping hand for the disaster-hit people in Pakistan during 2010 and 2011 floods.

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