FLOODS HIT AGAIN
September 16, 2011
While Pakistan was still grappling with last year’s devastating floods that marooned one-fifth of the country, it has again been hit by the natural calamity causing devastation of enormous magnitude. According to National Disaster Management Authority, 5.3 million people have been affected by this summer’s torrential rains in 23 districts of Sindh. Of these, nine highly affected districts are: Badin, Mirpurkhas, Tharparkar, Tando Muhammad Khan, Tando Allahyar, Matiari, Umerkot, Sanghar and Benazirabad. Over 500 villages of Badin have been affected and their crops and fish farms have been completely washed away.
Till September 11, rains caused 141 deaths, inundated 4.5 million acres of land, displaced four million people and damaged 7,00,000 houses. Standing crops on 1.7 million acres have been affected, while over 120,000 cattle have been lost due to flooding and various diseases in the rain-affected areas. Lives of hundreds of thousands more livestock and poultry are at risk as water-borne diseases have emerged. Besides, the livestock that is not diseased yet might die of starvation because fodder has been washed away. Poultry and fish farms have also suffered losses of tens of millions of rupees.
Meanwhile, the deluge continues and the woes of Sindh are compounded by the day, even though the authorities, in particular the army, struggle to save lives and bring relief to the affected people. So far, 4,000 relief camps have been established where 150,000 people have been placed out of 4.1 million affected people. On September 10, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani made an appeal to the international community, expatriate Pakistanis, welfare institutions and philanthropists to extend full support and cooperation to the government in tackling the situation created by the devastating rains. He said the magnitude of the devastation was bigger than our resources and “we will have to face the challenge with courage, determination and the spirit of sacrifice.” He asked the political parties to put aside their differences and work together for the good of all. Gilani said President Zardari had made an appeal, through United Nations, to the international community for help and he hoped that it would receive a positive response.
The federal government has so far provided two billion rupees to the Sindh government and “it is expected that till September 30, the financial assistance will be enhanced to Rs 7 billion rupees,” Gilani said. He appreciated the governments of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan for providing financial assistance of Rs.20 million each to the Sind government besides taking other relief measures, and Punjab Government for providing 24,000 tons of rice and three mobile hospitals besides other relief assistance to the flood-affected people in Sindh.” He said the government was doing its best but the magnitude of the tragedy required attention of all welfare institutions and philanthropists to provide support to the affected people.
It may be recalled that last year’s devastating floods had caused unprecedented destruction, which the UN described as worst than the Asian tsunami. Apart from 1,400 deaths, the overall losses were estimated by the World Bank and Asian Development Bank at US$ 10 billion. However, fresh floods have again put an added strain on the people and the government of Pakistan to provide relief to their vulnerable compatriots. Aware of donor fatigue due to various emergencies world over, the people and government of Pakistan seem determined to rely on their own resources and share the major burden of relief and rehabilitation work. But such emergent situations are beyond any nation’s capacity to make immediate arrangements for providing sufficient number of relief items, like tents, aqua tablets, water purification equipment, food supplies, de-watering pumps and medicines. Since in emergencies, time is of essence, relief needs to be provided to the flood affected people swiftly. However, the way that some minions of the State bungled with the management of last year’s flood disaster and hopelessly ill-organised distribution of relief items, some quarters are skeptical about the international community’s coming to our aid in a big way this time.
Mindful of the international community’s likely response to our appeal, many quarters endorse PML-N leader Nawaz Sharif’s Sharif’s views that despite heavy toll that the monsoon rains took on Sindh, there was no need to make a global appeal for flood relief and that the country’s political parties should have joined hands to help out the flood-affected people. Some circles support Mian Nawaz statement that ‘we do have the resources to adequately address the problem, but just lack the common sense at political level to deploy them appropriately’. For instance, despite the forecast of the Met Office, there were no proper arrangements to avert the national disaster.
In response to Pakistan’s appeal to the global community, China and Iran responded promptly, becoming the first two countries to announce assistance for Pakistan’s flood-affected people. While China has dispatched relief goods worth US$ 4.7 million, Iran has announced to donate US$ 100 million for the rehabilitation of the rain-affected people of Sindh and also provide a plane-load of relief goods.
Farming and livestock are the main source of sustenance of rural people in Sindh. Loss of livestock and poultry – considered as a secure source of income – in the rain-affected areas is likely to result in malnutrition of millions of people. Even according to this year’s Economic Survey of Pakistan, livestock offers the best hope for poverty alleviation as it can improve the socio-economic conditions of our rural masses by exploiting the potential of this sector and using it as an engine for economic growth and food security, leading to rural population’s empowerment and socio-economic development. Some 30-40 million people are dependent on livestock in the country.
In support of those who support the need to face such challenges as a one-man, making optimum use of nation’s own resources, one is reminded of a proverb which says “you find a helping hand at the end of your own arm.” The growth of the Chinese economic model was based on this premise, as laid down by Mao-dze Tong. Once, someone enquired from Mao the secret behind success of nations. He replied: crises, calamities, misfortunes and distresses lead nations to progress, success and glory. When asked to elaborate, Mao said: “In normal times, the nations remain oblivious and unaware of their true potential and also the weaknesses, deficiencies and shortcomings in their systems. But when confronted with calamities, they discover their talents and potential and also shortcomings, weaknesses and deficiencies in systems governing their nations.” Just take the case of Tang Shan’s 1976 earthquake. Before the quake, Tang Shan ranked amongst major industrial centres of China. On 28 July, 1976, a high intensity earthquake, recording 7.8 on the Richter scale, reduced it in to rubble, killing 656,000 people and seriously injuring 780,000. In magnitude, this was the highest intensity earthquake of the 20th century and the second most powerful earthquake to hit a Chinese city during the last 1,000 years. Though 83 and ill, Mao rushed to Tang Shan. The international community offered to help China in overcoming the effects of the earthquake, but Mao declined to accept aid from foreign countries. Somebody approached Mao with the proposal that since Tang Shan’s soil has weakened due to the earthquake, the city should not be rebuilt at its original site. Mao refused to accept the plea, saying that we shall rebuild a far stronger and much beautiful Tang Shan at its old site.
The Chinese nation translated their founding father’s vision into reality. With a population of over one million and dotted with numerous sky-scrappers, factories, farm houses and apartments, Tang Shan now ranks amongst major cities, once again. Tang Shan’s reconstruction was one of the great achievements of the 20th century, but a far greater accomplishment of China was rehabilitation of the earthquake victims. After the quake, three types of people were left in the city: dead, injured and completely unharmed. The government immediately buried the dead, provided first aid to the wounded and harnessed the energies of all able-bodied survivors in the city’s reconstruction effort. The second phase related to the rehabilitation of 400,000 families, which were affected by the earthquake and had no shelter over their heads. The government dispersed the affected families throughout China. Facilitating members of a household to assemble at one place; Beijing provided them railway tickets with advice to contact a pre-identified person after disembarkation at their destination where the host made arrangements for the boarding and lodging of that family. All the hosts were volunteers. On the day following the earthquake, Beijing made countrywide appeals that those who can provide shelter to the earthquake victims, should get their names registered. The government compiled lists of volunteers and made arrangements for the transfer of affected people to the volunteering families in keeping with their capacity to accommodate the displaced persons. Within eight weeks, all the affected families were settled. After rehabilitating those internally displaced persons, China transformed Tang Shan into a Chinese Model for Rehabilitation. Moral: Self-respecting nations harness their own potential to meet calamities and to make rapid progress.