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Disaster management to halt chronic devastation in Pakistan—I

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By Mahvish Muzaffar

Pakistan due to its geographic, geostrategic and geopolitical status is susceptible to man-made catastrophes, furthermore; its seismology, geology and meteorology make it more vulnerable to natural calamities. In lieu of these instances, since inception, Pakistan has massively been encountering natural and man-made disasters. Which are aggravating due to challenges of climate change, unplanned urbanization, underdevelopment, moreover, lack of mitigation and preparedness make it difficult for disaster management authorities to respond and for government functionaries to recover from chronic devastations.

Recurrence of these disasters without prior preparedness and mitigation, produce rampant wreckage by damaging millions of acre crops, physical infrastructure, human settlements and cause demise of human lives and livestock, loss of staple crops & seed stocks, destruction of irrigation channels, additionally, soil erosion weakens the imperative agriculture sector.

Poor and marginal people are the most affected segment whose sources of livelihood get vanished, as in 2010 floods 5.3 million people lost their jobs (ILO.) On the top of it, upshot of epidemics and water borne diseases e.g. gastroenteritis & diarrhea, and large mass transit and displacement make it most tricky for disaster management authorities to respond.

Cumulatively all these devastation reduce exports of cash crops and textile products hence foreign exchange, increase in food insecurity and jolt the entire economy in direct and indirect manner, thus in the aftermath, recovery from such pervasive destruction becomes a far cry. As per assessments of WB & ADB, the damages from unprecedented floods of 2010 amounted between $25bn to $40bn, submerged 20 percent of agricultural land which was of worth $2.8bn (ministry of food and agriculture) and about fifth of the health facilities in the country were being damaged (WHO).

Geographically Pakistan is situated in South Asia between longitudes 61º & 76º E and latitudes 24º & 37º N and covers 796,095 Km2 of land. The land is blessed with plenty of natural resources and diverse environment but simultaneously hazard prone. Due to disaster vulnerability of Pakistan, 84.91% population has got affected due to hydrological disasters through avalanches and floods, 9.11% because of geophysical catastrophes for instance; earthquakes, landslides, tsunamis, 2.99% due to perils of climatology such as extreme temperatures, droughts, and wildfires, 2.98% because of meteorological adversities caused by snow or wind storms and 0.02% due to biological disasters which include disease epidemics and insect/ animal plagues (EM-DAT).

In Pakistan since 1990 till 2013, a large number of 71.2 million people have been affected by natural & man-made catastrophes. Owing to climate changes, the spatial extent, magnitude and intensity of hydro-meteorological disasters is anticipated to further escalate over time, not only in Pakistan but at entire globe (Wilkinson & Brenes 2014).                (To be Continued)

(The writer is M.Phil (Economics) Scholar in GC University, Lahore -Pakistan.)

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