This piece of writing attempts to highlight the opportunity in the adversity created by the Flood disaster…. An opportunity for the floods to wash away the evils with it and an opportunity to rebuild Pakistan…a better Pakistan.
Opportunity in Adversity
The term “Disaster” is derived from Latin and is translated as “the stars are evil”. Disaster is an event that overwhelms local resources and threatens the function and safety of the community. It may be either natural or manmade or a combination of both, as is the case of Pakistan Floods 2010.
It is saddening that despite the frightening wakeup call from the earthquake in 2005, there was insufficient or to be more correct no preparation for the rescue from disaster that hit the country in form of floods in August 2010. The situation created by the floods speaks volumes about the lack of long term mitigation strategies and immediate planning and action on the Government’s part.
Even more worrisome is the fact how the flood, its aftermath and flood affectees have started fading away from the media and public debates. That gives a false impression of everything returning back to ‘normal’. We can pause and ask what is meant by the ‘normal conditions’? If we have learnt anything as a nation, then should the aim of rehabilitation not be to provide the flood victims with ‘normal conditions’ that are better, than the ones before the floods struck? Should we not be thinking in terms of how to minimize disaster risks for the future?
The physical effects of the floods are very obvious. According to the NDMA’s latest data on the flood damages, 1,985 people lost their lives in the floods that swept across the country. Around 1.7 million houses were damaged and 20.1 million people were affected. Out of the total 141 districts in the country, 78 are badly affected. A total of 12963 schools and 471 health facilities were destroyed besides the damage done to the agriculture sector. Houses, lands, crops, schools, hospitals and infrastructures have been destroyed.
People have been leftjobless and resourseless. Water borne diseases and other climatic related disorders have hit the victims badly. The economic, social and emotional loss that the victims have suffered needs a multipronged plan for their rehabilitation. The needs of the affectees are more than just material. This is not only a matter of philanthropy but it is a veryserious issue of public policy. The quarter of the country has been affected and the disaster has left the people vulnerable to problems and sufferings, that can slowly but surely mature and transmute into forms of national crises at later stages.
Another important aspect of the rehabilitation work is that it should not be seen as an extra responsibility on top of the other development work in our country. Indeed if anything it should be grabbed as a God given opportunity. The worsening economic conditions exacerbated by IMF’s terms, with the need to cut the deficit, had already resulted in curtailing of the social and development budgets and programmes. The recent floods have done two things. One it has provided a perfect scene for renewing the development plans with no donor in a position to even raise a finger on these plans on humanitarian and moral grounds.
Secondly the rehabilitation and development can be combined and overlapped in so far development of physical infrastructure and social and human capital is concerned. The floods have highlighted the needs of those hard hit areas, which were already underprivileged. It has also magnified the vulnerabilities of the disadvantaged groups, the daily wage earners, the bonded labours, the landless, the small peasants, the small businessman, the micro entrepreneur, the old and infirm, the women and the children. It has made prominent the misery of and the poor conditions in which the majorityof our people live in. The affected areas and people have become the centre of attention for the world.
The strategies for the rehab, therefore, must begin with an in depth analyses of this problem, starting with the causes of this great ruin. The causes behind this disaster are many. As mentioned in the beginning, it was not only the natural calamity that has become the reason for such mass destruction, but certainly many manmade causes contributed to this situation. The future disaster reduction strategies need to involve efforts to merge knowledge, expertise, technology, management skills, institutional capacities, and practical experience for the successful outcome. In the form of NDMA and PMDAs we already have requisite institutions.
Rehabilitation, reconstruction and rebuilding are the terms that we hear and read about frequently in media and everywhere. But how these terms will transcribe into action, is the important question to be addressed. Spoiled by the political incompetence and administrative ineptitude, the issue of the concern now is whether to let the situation get worse, or to see the opportunity of change in this adversity.
The positive aspect to this disaster is that the floods have opened a window of opportunity for change. The rehabilitation and reconstruction of damaged infrastructure can provide with the fair opportunity of betterment in various fields.
Every adversity is an opportunity to learn. The adversity inflicted upon us is also a chance which opens spaces for new solutions. New ideas to change for better the way things earlier were. In our case, the floods have provided a chance to involve a huge number of people, near the quarter of the country, as co creators of interventions. This has also provided with an opportunity to improve the infrastructural conditions in demolished areas by introducing better and modern techniques of construction and also to build new facilities that did not exist before.
These are only two aspects; whereas there are as many opportunities as the development planners want to see in this adversity. The key point is the need to avail transformative opportunities by connecting different aspects of rehabilitation including economic sustainability and even social and behavioral development. Though the later task is not very simple, it can be done if there is a strong will and profound thought process behind the plan and importantly the collaboration between the state and civil society to undertake this responsibility.
We say: Let the floods wash away the broken and underdeveloped Pakistan. Let the floods usher in a new era of rebuilding a prosperous Pakistan.
Themes for Rehab
There are far wider perspectives of rebuilding than only focusing on the houses for the rehabilitation process of flood victims. Broadly the five sectors of recovery include physical infrastructural, environmental, economic, administrative, institutional and psycho~social.
Thus the plan for rehabilitation must be based on the following guiding principles with the aim of creating opportunities for the recovery of flood affectees. The objective of helping people to recover from the disaster should not be to create beggars out of them, rather the opportunities for their own self empowerment should be created by taking into consideration the following:
- Restoring and strengthening capacities for their sustainability through skill development
- Creating opportunities for women empowerment
- Better and practical strategies for disaster management and overall governance
- Technological intervention in reconstruction of the physical infrastructure
- Development of social infrastructure
These issues and objects are not new to mention. These are primarily the targets that any normal development policy aims to achieve. The difference here between the development policy and the rehab policy is that of the urgency of the matter that can be dangerous if ignored or not given the due importance.
The essential requirements for the rehab policy are: Assessment data and Information System
Correct assessment of the needs of the affected areas is the most important step for ensuring a well planned recovery policy. In doing so the highest levels of available expertise should be used so that assessments are not duplicated. The information system must be updated by monitoring the ongoing needs and capacities and communicated between all key players of the rehab work on regular basis. For better coordination and planning the record of all working groups and their ongoing activities must be kept and updated. The information system must also identify the steps needed for protection against any secondary disaster threats. The information updates and assessment data should be freely available to all as public information.
An Inclusive Policy
The post disaster situation is vastly complex since all these sectors are interdependent to a great extent and need a comprehensive recovery program to cover up the multiple sectors. Therefore the rehab policy must be inclusive covering all possible aspects of recovery including economic, environmental, physical infrastructural and socio psycho. This being a great task is not a job of any single organization or the institution, therefore, it makes necessary for all key players to coordinate in its fulfillment.
Identifying and mobilization of resources needed for recovery
The other main issue regarding the rehab policy is to identify the resources required for the recovery. Along with the donations and aid coming in from international organizations and the funds raised from within the country, there must be new ideas to mobilize the already existing resources in recovery program. These include both financial and human resources. As an instance the industries related with construction and furnishing should be facilitated and encouraged to play their role in the plan for reconstruction. It can be a mutually beneficial strategy. Likewise the industries and organizations related with agriculture must also be encouraged to work for the recovery of agriculture sector in affected areas. The executive and administrative machinery of the country must be enabled to integrate the skills and expertise of the specialized organization.
For the financial assistance to the recovery program, another idea that can help is to establish a ‘Flood Bank’. The bank can be established for a period of five years that will issue loans to the affectees directly for the rehabilitation plans. The loans should be made on the condition that the money when they return will be used for the development of the communities of the affectees.
Capacity building of the key players
The recovery program also provides with an opportunity to add value to the competence of the key players of rehabilitation work. Management committees should organize trainings for stakeholders from district to national levels for building capacities in planning and management of recoveryprograms availing skill transfer from abroad and within the country. The NDMA in this respect should be active and efficient through making different departments coordinated, nationwide.
Building social Infrastructure
As discussed earlier, the flood has exposed and laid bare, the socio economic conditions of the majority of Pakistani people who live in less developed areas. The standards in health and safety and education are really low. Many of the children living in the shelter camps are physically weak and not enrolled in schools. This is not because of the floods but due to poverty. A great majority of the women are illiterate and have no skills also.
Therefore, the rehabilitation agenda must consider the development of social infrastructure as a high priority. The schools and hospitals should be built ensuring the quality and standards and their efficient service. Technological interventions must be made in reconstructing houses roads and communication systems by practically integrating the knowledge about social services. The private sector should also be encouraged with the non interference and facilitation by the government to work. More active participation by women in community groups should be ensured by empowering them through providing skill development, education, giving women the financial control and creating a gender balance in decision~making positions.
Transparency and accountability
In the process the most important requirement is to maintain full transparency, so that assessment data is made freely available in a management Information System and also to minimize the risks of corruption. This is important in both directions that are towards the beneficiaries of the aid and also to the donors to show that we are serious and committed to the task of rebuilding.
Rights of the Local people
In the process of reconstruction and rehabilitation the local people must be given more and more opportunities to involve so that they can do their work with personal interest and earn as well. It can be useful for the delivery of the purpose as well because the local people may be more effective as they have good knowledge of the losses, needs and resources in the local context.
Agriculture, being one of the largest income earning sectors of the economy in Pakistan, has also suffered a great loss due to the floods which have directly affected nearly 44% of the labor force attached to it.
The need of the land reforms in Pakistan, which has been emphasized continuously since long, has been raised once again in the wake of recent crisis. The monopolistic land ownership and the feudal structure, which has been a root cause of the rural poverty and has contributed majorly to national poverty by never paying taxes and under~utilization of the resource potential, is also a hurdle in the way of rehabilitation and recovery process.
Almost one third of the country’s farmers are tenant farmers, who give more than fifty percent of what they earn from farming to the landlords. The large landowners retain their power over small farmers and tenants in many areas. In interior Sindh, which has now been hit by the floods, these tenants have lost their crops and fields and their livelihoods completely. Yet they are compelled to pay their tenure to the landlords. This is quite unfortunate fact that the floods have rather proved a smaller crisis to these poor farmers who see the slavery of the landowners as a bigger problem for themselves.
From the experience, it is seen that many such farmers do not want to go back in their previous position of tenancy rather they want to take opportunities to set up their own livelihood and celebrate freedom form bonded labor.
Therefore, the floods have also provided the state with an opportunity to work on the land reforms including land tenure arrangements, redistribution and re~demarcation of land. The state can use land reforms for the recovery of poor affectees from the disaster as well as an effective initiative to end poverty and create opportunities.
Need of coordinated effort to rebuild
Despite the efforts of relief and recovery by the dedicated groups and organizations, what is lacking most is the coordination between the relief providers. Therefore, by this stage, there must coordination centers in all affected areas for the organizations and individuals involved in the relief effort at local, regional and national levels.
The recovery and rehabilitation is no doubt a great task that no single entity can perform effectively on its own. The civil society and state alliance is a major requisite in this regard. The barriers between the governmental and nongovernmental organizations must be removed. Ideally there must be a single major plan that should be followed by all key players in coordination. But due to non~existence of any such pre~ designed plan and framework for disaster management, the relevant authorities must provide with a platform for communication and coordination for all the groups working in rehabilitation. Secondly, the authorities must ensure that they are not creating any further problems or hindrances for the people and organization that want to work. The purpose of information sharing should be to maintain the coordination and not to create an authority over the rehabilitation work. An example of this kind of beaurocratic power abuse is stipulation by NDMA to obtain an NOC from it before undertaking any rehabilitation work. While the need for coordination and information is essential an NOC in Pakistan can only means more avenues for corruption and power abuse.
In this respect the revival of local governmental setup is needed, urgently, for communication of assessment of needs and close coordination with the beneficiaries. The telecommunication infrastructure needs to be expanded even further both vertically as well as horizontally.
Optimism and enthusiasm
Optimism and enthusiasm to rebuild Pakistan and seeing opportunities in this adversity is certainly the most important factor required to attain the objective of recovery. A top down approach is important to adopt here as the enthusiasm can come from dynamic and honest leadership. If started from top, this can be maintained at all levels. The leadership must show the commitment and resolve to undertake the aim of rebuilding Pakistan…a better Pakistan.
The political parties, in this respect, have a greater responsibility and a crucial role to play. They must to show their zeal in actually taking practical steps at a time when a great number of the masses really needs them to translate their slogans into action.
Last but not the least, this great disaster must not be fade out until the misery of the victims is alleviated fully and new and better country has been rebuilt. Unfortunately the fashion of forgetting events and taking them for grated prevails in our country. We can absorb even the worst things happening around us…people dying out of hunger, terrorist attacks, suicides, target killings and natural calamities and carry on as normal. We become reactive first and then go senseless after a certain period of time.
It must however be remembered that this is not the time to be indifferent. The losses suffered by many in a major part of the country can gradually transform into long term problems for the most with nightmarish consequences for all.
There is a great opportunity in this great adversity.
Let the old Pakistan be swept away. Let the new Pakistan, better and prosperous, usher in.