Friday, August 13, 2010

Hanging by a tether in Gilgit-Baltistan

The writer blogs at Pamir Times (
A series of natural disasters has crippled life in most of Gilgit–Baltistan. Recent torrential rains have affected over 20,000 people in seven districts of the region. Around 80 lives have been lost in flood-related hazards, while critical infrastructure, including the Karakoram Highway, has been badly damaged. The worst hit village in the region is Qamra where around 42 people lost their lives and many were missing after it was hit by a flash flood on August 7.
The Karakoram Highway has been blocked and bridges in the Kohistan and Hazara regions of Khyber–Pakhtunkhwa province destroyed. Scarcity of essential items due to the blockade of access routes has emerged as a major problem. Government and relief agencies are facing problems in transporting relief goods to affected areas while prices in local markets have skyrocketed making goods unaffordable for many. Supply of clean drinking water has been disrupted and the spread of waterborne diseases is becoming an eminent threat due to the absence of proper health facilities.
The top priority of the government and the NGOs should be to transport relief items to the disaster hit areas and to restore the Karakoram Highway immediately, as well as inter-district and inter-village link roads. Provision of health and hygiene facilities is another area of major importance and education of displaced children will also have to be planned for.
The government needs to come up with a proper rehabilitation plan. Special attention is required to support families who have lost all means of livelihood, which is going to cause poverty to sharply increase in the coming months. National and international organisations will have to intervene and create safety nets for these vulnerable families. It is pertinent to note that Hunza–Nagar and Gilgit districts were already suffering as a result of the Attabad landslide of January 4.
It is unfortunate that natural disasters routinely play havoc with precious lives, throwing thousands of families below the poverty line in a fraction of seconds. Logic dictates that investment in preparedness is far easier and beneficial than compensation. The risk of such disasters can be significantly reduced by helping communities plan safer settlements. In Gilgit city, for instance, most of the houses destroyed were reportedly constructed in the path of the river’s flow. Several houses that were washed away were constructed in highly vulnerable locations because of lack of expert knowledge. It is not irrational to expect that the number of people killed and displaced could have been significantly lower if they had taken extra care while building their settlements.
The government, NGOs and local communities need to join hands and work together to ensure that risks are reduced and further damage prevented. Preventing destruction, rather than curing it after it has happened, is the golden rule even today.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 13th, 2010.


اگر ممکن ہے تو اپنا تبصرہ تحریر کریں

اہم اطلاع :- غیر متعلق,غیر اخلاقی اور ذاتیات پر مبنی تبصرہ سے پرہیز کیجئے, مصنف ایسا تبصرہ حذف کرنے کا حق رکھتا ہے نیز مصنف کا مبصر کی رائے سے متفق ہونا ضروری نہیں۔

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