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August 16, 2015

10 years of Earthquake-I


August 16, 2015

Bagh (Azad Jammu & Kashmir): It is only two months short of 10th anniversary of the worst ever earthquake, which struck on October 8, 2005 and devastated vast areas of Azad Jammu & Kashmir (AJK) and the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KP) the reconstruction and rehabilitation process is still lumbering along at painfully slow pace.
‘Marching on Together - Build Back Better’ is the slogan but the march seems to have become a somber ‘pall march’ as the courage and enthusiasm seems to have withered with the passage of time.
People on the road are dissatisfied and disgruntled with the pace of work and openly complain that they have been neglected and left out in the cold.
The Project Director of the Project Management Unit (PMU) for Bagh City Development Project (BCDP), Brig. (R) Altaf Hussain Tahir while talking to ‘The News’ said that the University of Engineering and Technology (UET), Lahore prepared the urban reconstruction plan and identified 43 projects to be executed by the BCDP. There were another 9 projects initiated by different donors or NGOs on their own.
“So, there are a total of 52 projects (43+9) in Bagh on which the work was launched in 2011, six years after the earthquake had struck because the funds were allocated at that time. Out of these only 13 projects have been completed so far and handed over to the respective agencies,” said Brig (R) Altaf.
He said that all these projects are related to urban infrastructure development and most attention was paid to reconstruction and rehabilitation of roads network, water supply scheme and sewerage system.
About the rest of the projects under reconstruction and development work 11 projects are 76 percent completed, 13 projects are at various stages of completion ranging from 51 percent to 75 percent, 26 to 50 percent progress has been achieved on 9 projects, two projects are at initial stages with only 25 percent progress achieved while there are four projects yet to be launched.

Unfortunately the two most important aspects, education and health, have been almost completely neglected, particularly in the rural areas, causing much distress to the people, especially women and children.
Brig (R) Altaf, however, was somewhat disappointed that not enough attention was paid to reconstruction and rehabilitation of schools, hospitals, the Basic Health Units (BHUs) and the Rural Health Centers (RHCs).
“My department has been tasked to complete the infrastructure projects and that we are doing. We may have lagged behind in some but there are multiple reasons behind this delays and the cash flow being the main one,” Brig Altaf said.
The administrative head of the Bagh District, Deputy Commissioner Amjad Ali, said that every effort is being made by the government, both at the state level as well as from Islamabad, to bring about the turnaround in the lives of people of not only Bagh but all those areas devastated by the October 8, 2005 earthquake. The Deputy Commissioner, who has recently taken over charge of the office said that the pace of work may be not as we would have liked to be but a lot has been done and the rest is being pursued with all seriousness by the concerned departments.
Meanwhile, the people at the District Reconstruction Unit (DRU) Bagh, mainly responsible for reconstruction and rehabilitation of the destroyed and damaged educational institutions and health facilities sounded subdued but not to the extent of being pessimist.
Two senior officials, one engaged with the planning and the other with the monitoring and evaluation, while talking to ‘The News’ said that in the education sector there were 770 totally destroyed schools all over district Bagh (now divided into two districts after creation of Haveli as a new district) out of which 335 have been reconstructed/rehabilitated. “Work on 172 projects is at various stages of completion while there are 263 school/college buildings, work on which has not even started as yet,” the Monitoring and Evaluation officer of the DRU said.
Regarding the health facilities he said that there were 46 health facilities in Bagh district at the time the earthquake struck on October 8, 2005. “Out of these 27 have been completed and handed over to the relevant authorities while two more facilities are nearing completion. Work on 17 projects is yet to start,” he added.

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