Monsoon exposes weak districts’ disaster response


ISLAMABAD: The ongoing monsoon spell may be depressing given the unfolding death toll but disaster preparedness at provincial level seems a little better than it was during 2010 mega floods. 
Daily Times has learnt that Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab and Sindh have not only improved early warning systems but also stored relief goods and trained manpower.
An international humanitarian organisation official said that their community has also prepared themselves for likely watery disaster if the rivers swell themselves.
According to weather department assessment last month, Pakistan was experiencing rainfall far below its 10-year average, technically called drought condition.  In spite of Pakistan Meteorological Department’s forecasts, the humanitarian community believes that the three-day downpour has rubbed aside the drought fears. 
The officials in NDMA claim that their provincial offices are ready with stocks of tents, medicine and food besides contingency plans and repeated drill for polishing their skills during an unfolding disaster. The national disaster management agency has been regularly updating its database about the capacity and preparedness. 
The relief experts, monitoring Pakistan’s disaster preparedness, are wary about district-level capacity to deal with floods and other disasters as they unfold. 
There has been a little emphasis on empowering the district authorities with training and equipment. 
“Failure of the government to devolve power to districts and hold local bodies elections has been a key impediment in erecting a solid structure for disaster management,” admits an NDMA official. 
He admitted that there were fears of water-borne diseases as floodwater contaminates water sources. The Punjab government seems better prepared but only to the extent of central regions of the provinces, thanks to repeated dengue alarms.
Over the next 72, more intense rains are expected in the northern parts of the country with the spell lessening in the central and southern parts of Pakistan. However, a major impediment in case of significant flooding in southern part of the country will be military’s airborne resources intense engagement in the tribal areas. 

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Aaj Kal