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PAKISTAN’S DISASTER MANAGEMENT SYSTEM

INTRODUCTION

Pakistan is a densely populated third-world country that is underdeveloped. An examination of DM policies and System states “It covers a total land area of 796,095 square kilometres and is located between latitudes 24 and 37 degrees north and longitudes 62 and 75 degrees east.” Because of its diverse land and climatic conditions, Pakistan is vulnerable to a variety of disasters. The earthquake-prone provinces of Gilgit-Baltistan (GB), Balochistan, and AJK are particularly vulnerable to disasters. Floods plague Punjab and Sindh, particularly in low-lying areas. Every year, the populace suffers a massive loss of life and property as a result of one or more natural disasters.

DISASTERS CANNOT BE AVOIDED

However, the resulting damage can be significantly reduced with a well-planned approach to DM. Following years of unfortunate experiences, the government has taken some steps to address these ongoing challenges. Although governing bodies for DM has been established, it is clear from recent disasters that much more needs to be done to mitigate losses and alleviate the suffering of people in affected areas. Disasters are perceived to be the result of inadequate and incompetent risk management. 

As a result of a combination of hazards and vulnerabilities, these risks arise.

Hazards that strike areas with low vulnerability will never become disasters, as they do in less populated areas. Natural disasters can halt years of urban development by destroying infrastructure and resulting in massive human and material losses. According to one report, “over 90% of disaster victims worldwide are residents of developing countries,” and the resulting losses and damages are approximately twenty times greater in developing countries than in developed countries.

In addition to natural disasters such as floods and earthquakes, incidents such as fires, train accidents, and industrial accidents occur in Pakistan, causing significant damage. If proper procedures are in place, the magnitude of destruction caused by such disasters can be significantly reduced. However, it has been observed that there is a lack of planning and coordination among the various agencies/setups responsible for dealing with such situations in general. Furthermore, when a disaster of this magnitude occurs in the country, critical resource deficiencies are brought to light. In addition to the deficiencies mentioned above, which generally occur in the domain of government, a general lack of public awareness is a major factor contributing to an incident or accident entering the realm of Disaster. Knowledge of DM is the only effective way to ensure the full participation of the general public [3]. As a result, any DM Regime is only effective when the general public is made aware of the disaster. DM is all about employing deft ways and methods of disaster control. While disasters occur frequently in Pakistan, only the most significant ones have been identified and will be discussed further. These have been classified according to their scope and gravity, with those requiring the participation of all relief agencies, including armed forces, and those requiring only the intervention of one or a few concerned agencies. Similarly, those on a larger scale are classified as disasters, while those on a smaller scale are classified as crises.

CHALLENGES FACED BY PAKISTAN

NATURAL AND MANMADE DISASTERS: As previously stated, Pakistan, as a developing and densely populated country, is vulnerable to a wide range of natural and man-made disasters. The most important ones are discussed in the following paragraphs.

SEISMIC ACTIVITY: Pakistan is located in an earthquake-prone seismic zone, so earthquakes are likely to occur frequently. The Himalayas, Hindu Kush, and Karakoram mountain ranges are particularly vulnerable. The earthquake risk is exacerbated by Pakistan’s location on the eastern margin of the collision between the Indian and Eurasian plates. As a result, major earthquakes are possible in the north, where the Indian Plate thrusts beneath the Himalayas, and along the country’s western edge, while the transverse motion of the Indian Plate relative to the Iranian and Afghan microplates results in the Chaman fault. The Arabian Plate subducts beneath the Iranian Plate along the Makran Coast, where a 7.9 magnitude earthquake in 1945 caused a tsunami with 12-metre-high waves.

FLOODING

Floods are typically caused by high to moderate-intensity rainfall over a sufficiently long period of time. According to S. Sreekesh, “Flooding can also occur due to dam or reservoir failure or improper management of high water level conditions in reservoirs and consequent sudden release of the water, particularly during periods of high-intensity rainfall.” Pakistan is prone to floods as a result of heavy rains during the monsoon season, with the province of Punjab being the most vulnerable. These floods have also severely impacted the Katcha area of Sindh Province. Flash floods have recently occurred in Khyber Pakhtun Khawa (KPK), Balochistan, and Sindh. Coastal floods are uncommon in Sindh and Balochistan; however, the one in 2004 caused extensive damage, including the washing away of the coastal highway [5,6]. Despite the fact that the Indus River System Authority (IRSA) has installed a telemetric system at each barrage and other flow control points to provide useful flood forecasting, there are no worthwhile flood management arrangements in place. Irrigation and planning departments work in isolation, with little emphasis on working together to manage a disaster. Inadequate means at the disposal of provincial governments, such as power boats, life-saving equipment, relief rations, epidemic control medical, and so on, eventually places the entire burden on the Armed Forces. Table 2.0 shows major floods and their effects.

CYCLONES IN THE TROPICS:

Cyclones are most common between April and May, and from October to December. According to one study, “cyclonic storms cannot be avoided; only the loss of life and property damage can be mitigated if prompt action is taken after receiving timely warnings.” Cyclones can wreak havoc on the coastal belts of Balochistan and Sindh. From 1971 to 2001, 14 cyclones were recorded.

 Droughts. Generally, these occur when a region receives consistently below-average precipitation. Balochistan, parts of Sindh, and south-eastern Punjab experience very little rainfall. As a result, these areas are the most vulnerable to drought. Annual water waste of 27 MAF into the sea could be reduced, and storage dams could be built to increase water availability for agriculture. The 2.2 million people affected by the disease were devastated by an intense drought in 2000-02.

CROPS ARE BEING ATTACKED BY LOCUSTSA locust attack is a pest plague that can harm crops, fruits, and trees. Medium-sized swarms arrived in Pakistan from across the Indian border in late 2010, where they settled and bred in the Ghotki and Bahawalpur desert areas, raising concerns that total cotton production may fall further following floods that “damaged two million bales earlier.”

SIGNIFICANT FIRES IN THE OIL AND GAS INDUSTRIES: Natural as well as human-induced fires are common in Pakistan. They have disastrous effects on the environment and the economy, in addition to causing human and wildlife loss. Forest fires are common in the states of AJK, KPK, Murree, and Margala. Fires in urban commercial and residential areas, as well as rural areas, are common, as evidenced by recent factory fires in Karachi that resulted in the tragic loss of life. This hazard is particularly dangerous to gas and oil fields, transmission lines, and oil depots.

HEALTH EPIDEMICS: Cholera is a serious health issue in Pakistan, with a large number of cases every year. Between May and August, the disease becomes more severe due to monsoon rains combined with a faulty sewage system and insufficient water supply. The disease affects an older population, and the majority of patients are poor, refugees or immigrants living in overcrowded refugee camps in deplorable conditions.

SUMMARISED CHALLENGES

Pakistan has a serious vulnerability to both natural and manmade disasters. Major natural disasters like earthquakes, tsunamis and cyclones cannot be avoided or altered but deliberately planned risk management can minimise the resulting damages both to life and property. Industrial accidents can be avoided by implementing failsafe procedures and improving oversight. Disasters such as floods, cyclones, droughts, and epidemics can be predicted well in advance, allowing for planning and mobilisation. Earthquakes are extremely dangerous in KPK, Northern Areas, AJK, Karachi, and Balochistan. Gwadar and other big cities are also exposed to this hazard. In the last century, a major earthquake occurred once every eight years. Floods are a common occurrence in Pakistan and cause extensive damage. A major flood occurs every six years in Pakistan. Drought is also a major issue in Pakistan. If not addressed, it is very likely to result in a significant human, economic, and social loss in the future. Disasters such as earthquakes, traffic accidents, industrial / fire hazards, and so on can strike at any time and without warning.

According to statistics, developing and underdeveloped countries suffer far more damage than developed countries due to a lack of resource management and awareness. Although there has been no nuclear accident in the country, there is no room for complacency. Dam and bridge construction is the order of the day.

RECOMMENDATIONS

Sound policy formulation and legislation, capacity building of various institutions, infusion of responsiveness through the efficient interface between various tiers, and effective use of various elements of national power are all important aspects that require special attention. The following paragraphs detail various steps to help our nascent DM system mature.

National strategy development should be led by political/civilian leadership and must receive legislative approval. It should provide broad guidelines to Civil Governments at the Federal, Provincial, and District levels, as well as other components envisaged to be involved in DM. It should prioritise long-term, inclusive, and coherent institutional arrangements to address disaster issues. To deal with large-scale disasters, Pakistan requires strong federal institutions. To maintain the DM Regime’s strong centralised character, clear and unambiguous legislation must be put in place as soon as possible. Without guaranteed budgets, DM institutions cannot function. Legislation to that effect is required. An expert panel must allocate a percentage of the budget to the DM Regime.

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