Sunday, August 15, 2010
Pakistan's Biblical Floods :Where Is The World?
Today 600 children are dying a day, millions of women are displaced, without shelter, food and clean drinking water because of the floods calamity which does not seem to recede. A country who fought US war against the Soviets, and now whose own land is littered with the bodies of its martyrs for fight against terrorism, is sadly left alone standing in mighty flood waters of 'Biblical' proportions. Why has the world response been so poor, lukewarm and late? Why is the Muslim World's response equally invisible, and in-consequent? These are the two questions which millions of Pakistanis are asking again and again. Where are the shows of unity and show of friendship with the women and children of Pakistan? Where is the thrust to win their hearts and minds. The US is apparently the only country that is at least showing some semblance of help and a few others like Norway, India, and France. But where is China? So many European countries and Muslim countries are inconspicuous by their absence.
They say that more than 12% of the population of Pakistan is displaced and shelter-less right now. They say that the diseases like gastro-enteritis, skin diseases, dehydration, viral and bacterial infections of the gut and chest are spreading fast.
With the crops of wheat, rice, cotton, and millets grains gone in the floods on the plains of Sindh and Punjab, there will be acute food shortages. There will be massive food cost inflation. With the employed like farmers, tillers displaced from their lands, the unemployment and poverty will rise acutely. Pakistan needs urgent relief with kind and much more with money to rebuild and rehabilitate. There has to be a disaster relief fund for the agricultural workers whose lands and crops have been destroyed. This should be given in addition to their dwelling and infrastructure & tractor loss relief fund.
The World Bank has to create a special disaster relief fund for the Pakistani agricultural/ small farmers which should be disbursed directly by the WB. No intermediary should be involved except for providing logistical support. This is crucial. According to a credible NGO the floods in Sindh have destroyed many villages and towns as the bunds or dams were intentionally broken by influential landlords to save their own lands. One such glaring example is the Mounder Town incident on 13th night when breaches created by private' bund' owners to save their land made the water inundate the whole town within hours and the army had to evacuate some 10,000 people in urgency. There have been many such examples all over Sindh. Sindh needs urgent relief like food, clean drinking water, medicines as the devastation is very large.
The relief aid when in cash form will also have to be disbursed through very strict transparency by foreign audit teams as the local made disbursement will never be transparent and effective.The Sindh government is overwhelmed by the scale and enormity of the disaster. They neither have the logistics, the capacity or the personnel to handle such a calamity. Their seriousness of purpose or even the understanding to apprehend the scale of the disaster is obvious from the fact that all they think especially the minister for irrigation that their primitive handling of opening and closing of waterways and bunds will be the most effective management system. When the residents of Sukkur are living in sheer fear of the disaster hitting their town , the minster for irrigation was scolding the journalists for spreading panic. This kind of mentality is also reflective in their recent handling of the under development of a credible team for the development of Thar Coal for which they have made a secretary of government the sole player. This is reflective of their sheer lack of understanding of the modern concepts of business and economic development.They think that by adhoc measures in a lordly, feudal fashion will solve the very overwhelming and major governance problems.
Jacobabad town has been urgently evacuated with millions leaving all behind because a breach is made in the "THORI" bund. This is done to lessen the pressure on Sukkur barrage. The water is now heading towards an air force base which is very important for logistical support and even more so now for relief aid logistics. Where and what was the original flood response plan? The Sindh Peoples Party Government was more concerned with the fact that Karachi infrastructure was built and Karachi is for ethnic Sindhis also and it was least concerned about refurbishing and repairing the Sukkur barrage, repairing the canals and waterways, making a modern , cohesive flood disaster plan for all of Sindh. Few months back also when cyclone Phet hit coastal towns of Sindh they provided neither relief nor any financial help to the affectees, There is no Coastal Disaster response plan for Sindh where Karachi alone is the largest city of Pakistan in its purview. Who will develop the Karachi Disaster Management Plan and implement it? As all disaster management programs involve community participation especially coastal areas have to follow a cyclone management/evacuation plan.These are some of the questions which the Sindh government has to take seriously and also the federal government has to understand and impose.