Intra-Saarc safety measures suggested
KARACHI, Jan 30: Participants in a conference on Wednesday demanded that the South Asian governments update their disaster management capabilities and allocate more funds for the development sector and formulate policies responsive to the people’s needs for safety and relief.
These demands were made in a resolution adopted at the conclusion of a two-day regional conference on ‘Disaster response in South Asia: exporting commonalities and realising joint framework’ organised by the Pakistan Institute for Labour Education and Research.
The resolution further urged the states to set up a South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) disaster management fund and form a ‘South Asian humanitarian forum’ as a platform for convening summits of the humanitarian community and converging local and international efforts at the regional level.
It also called on the Saarc governments to sign a no-war pact and establish a ‘South Asian court of justice’ to resolve their mutual disputes in a peaceful manner and introduce an on-arrival visa regime for their citizens.
Sindh chief minister’s former adviser on planning Taj Haider said Sindh had lost over Rs1 trillion to disasters, and in the past three years it had spent over Rs62 billion for relief of the victims and billions of rupees were still needed for their rehabilitation and restoration of infrastructure destroyed by the disasters.
Referring to the causes of floods, he said encroachments had been removed from the natural drains of the Indus. He said that among the other major causes of flood related damage was the design flaw of the World Bank-funded Left Bank and Right Bank Outfall Drains which blocked natural waterways. He said that now WB consultants had been called in to suggest remedies and redesigning of the drains to correct their earlier mistakes.
He also said the Sindh government would soon approach its Punjab counterpart to raise the issue of untreated industrial effluents coming from Punjab and affecting agricultural lands in Ghotki district.
A Bangladeshi disaster management expert, Khurshid Alam, talking through video conferencing, said that all South Asian states should initiate a joint work based on research to understand the disaster management process.
Nalaka Rosairo of the National Fisheries Solidarity Movement of Sri Lanka, sharing his experience of the tsunami the island nation had suffered, said a large amount of money had come in the form of foreign aid but where and how the bulk of it was spent remained unknown. He said areas from where the ruling elite got elected got more share from the aid. He said that in certain areas even incidents of sexual abuse during rescue and relief operations were reported. He said incidents of misappropriation of relief goods and distribution of goods on a political basis were also reported.
Dr Manzoor Awan of the Sungi Development Foundation said the government did not seem to have learnt any lessons from the recent disasters and rather than taking responsibility wanted local and international non-governmental organisations to do its job. He suggested that the national as well as provincial disaster management authorities improve their accountability mechanisms to develop a resilient culture to address the vulnerability of the community. The NDMA’s Idrees Mahsud said Pakistan had different ecological conditions and faced multidimensional disaster threats that ranged from earthquake, cyclone,
drought, forest fire, industrial accidents, oil spillage, glacial lake bursting, avalanches, landslides etc. He said the NDMA had designed a ‘national disaster risk reduction policy’ and work was under way on the formulation of disaster management plans.
Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum chief Mohammad Ali Shah and Karamat Ali of Piler also spoke.