Millions who have been displaced by the worst floods in Pakistan’s history need an urgent way out of their misery. If anything, the scale of the recent disaster is unprecedented. By all accounts, the worst is not over. In fact, it has not even started.
Where do we stand today? Cumulative estimates of losses are increasing (initial estimates have gone beyond $15 billion) and over 20 million people have been displaced in 71 districts of Pakistan. This is a recipe for chaos and failure. There is no alternative to undertaking urgent planning efforts leading to an early recovery plan.
Learning from 2005: Before an early recovery plan is formulated, learning from the 2005 earthquake is vital. The foremost lesson from that phase of disaster-management relates to the ineffectiveness of setting up centralized bodies such as Earthquake Reconstruction & Rehabilitation Authority (ERRA), which did not deliver the goods. After five years of operation, ERRA “has not even utilized the 50% of the funds earmarked and has to date spent less than 20% on the education sector”, says Usman Qazi who was closely affiliated with the post-earthquake recovery drive.
Another lesson pertained to the installation of parallel structures at all governmental levels thereby leading to duplication of effort and inefficiencies. The Planning Commission must be aware of the pitfalls of creating centralized relief and reconstruction agencies. The earthquake recovery process also witnessed the unnecessary involvement of contractors’ mafia in the reconstruction process. The rural support programmes and other community-based networks delivered far better than contractor-driven relief efforts. Continue reading