Earthquake 2005: A story of forgotten promises
MUZAFFARABAD, Oct 7: As the entire nation commemorated the 7th anniversary of the October 2005 earthquake on Monday, most of the survivors were still concerned about the pledged reconstruction work, which is still not completed.
Like an annual ritual, government functionaries started bragging about their achievements and future plans regarding the reconstruction program, soon after the onset of October, notwithstanding a widely known bitter reality – acute scarcity of cash flow.
According to figures obtained from the State Earthquake Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Agency (Serra), out of 7,984 projects/facilities, 4,693 had so far been completed, while work was “in progress” on another 2,068. Around 1,223 projects were yet to be started.
The education sector was still the worst hit, as out of the 2,792 projects, 1,714 were either “in progress” or yet to be started.
According to Sardar Rahim Khan, who was recently posted as secretary Serra, the reconstruction related bodies — Earthquake Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Authority (Erra) and Serra — were unable to complete projects according to their Annual Work Plan (AWP) due to acute financial crisis faced by the country.
However, 350 projects had been completed in AJK over the last one year and 135 of them were in the education sector, he said.
A brief prepared by Serra revealed that severe financial crunch had virtually paralysed the reconstruction program, since April 2010.
Requirements for ongoing projects in AJK were worked out at Rs16.02 billion, whereas the central government had allocated a paltry Rs10 billion to Erra for the entire reconstruction program.
Of this, the amount released to AJK until September 30 was just Rs314 million, whereas total volume of Serra’s matured liabilities by that time was Rs1.47 billion.
“The central government should allocate more funds for reconstruction program to help us clear pending liabilities, which have already caused a considerable de-mobilisation of contractors,” said the sources in Serra.
Sources said that during their last meeting with chairman and deputy chairman Erra on September 16, both the AJK president and prime minister had called for immediate release of funds and enhancement of budgetary allocations for AJK.
In the backdrop of this situation, AJK’s civil society and many political parties allege that reconstruction program had badly suffered due to diversion of reconstruction related funds to some other heads by the PPP-led central government.
Mr Amin, who as chairman Development Authority Muzaffarabad (DAM) was privy to most of the developments, regretted that a number of important projects earlier pledged to the ravaged AJK capital had been shelved by the governments in Islamabad and Muzaffarabad. It may be mentioned here that the Chinese government had pledged a soft loan of US$300 million for reconstruction program to which US$53 million was added by the GoP as a counterpart funding.
The amount was apportioned to three AJK cities – Muzaffarabad, Bagh and Rawalakot. Share for Muzaffarabad stands at US$ 190.62 million (54% of the total), but of the 104 projects worked out at the beginning, many have been shelved.
According to Serra’s document, the federal government had pledged a total allocation of Rs 4.187 billion under “President of Pakistan’s Relief Fund” for land acquisition for city development projects. However, of it only Rs2 billion had so far been released.
In the ongoing fiscal year, Serra had demanded Rs700 million from that allocation to “avert jeopardy faced by the city development projects” but nothing had been provided.
On Monday, residents of Muzaffarabad were all set to stage a sit-in against what Mr Amin said “perfidies” meted out to the earthquake survivors over the past seven years.
Serra document also disclosed that of the total 234 projects for all three towns, only 5 had been completed and 42 were in progress, whereas work on 187 was yet to see the light of the day.
The earthquake survivors were also aghast with Erra which, they alleged had not only been overstepping its mandate but had been wasting “a lot of money on non-essentials.”
“Erra was constituted for planning of reconstruction program in the affected areas, but it has not only indulged in implementation, particularly in donor sponsored projects where the cash flow is not an issue, but has also got it converted into a permanent body at the cost of survivors,” lamented Mr Amin.
According to documents obtained from Erra, there are around 400 employees in the authority, 82 of which are enjoying gazetted positions.
Most of them have been regularized, whereas many have gone to the courts for their regularisation, notwithstanding the fact that the purpose for which the body was raised was lagging far behind than the pledges and promises.