The National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA) has published its detailed Flood Damage Report, whose details are: 1208 deaths, 1256 injured, 287,000 houses destroyed and 662,000 houses damaged. NDMA was created in August 2007 for the implementation, coordination and monitoring of relief efforts. A similar organisation was also created in October 2005 after the devastating earthquake of August the same year called the Earthquake Rehabilitation and Rebuilding Agency (ERRA). While NDMA is under the Ministry of Climate Change, ERRA reports directly to the Prime Minister (PM). After the recent floods, a National Response and Coordination Centre (NRCC) has also been created to coordinate relief efforts. There seems to be some confusion about the charter of these organisations while the reports are well documented and prepared the efforts on the ground are dismal.
I was actively involved with the relief efforts after the earthquake in 2005 and the floods in 2010. After encountering massive corruption, our Turkish brothers decided to build projects themselves rather than fund the projects. The entire Civil Secretariat was built by them. Ten years after the quake, I had the chance of visiting Muzaffarabad, and I was shocked to see that even the debris of the destroyed buildings had not been removed. The floods in 2010 were an eye-opener. Water was all over the place. On the ground, notable relief work was carried out by the Al-Khidmat Foundation of Jamaat-e-Islami and workers of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI). Overall, the spirits of the flood affected were high who wanted to return home to start the rebuilding process. Several committees were formed both for the rehabilitation as well as prevention of such natural disasters. Now 12 years later in 2022, NDMA has only been able to report damages with no mention of efforts that took place between the two massive floods. A performance report of the agency is overdue.
Over the year, most government agencies have mastered the art of seminars, presentations and reports. Even new departments are launched with the same old non-performing individuals hoping for better results which are never achieved. I am not sure about the current status of ERRA but NDMA exists together with the PDMA (Provincial Disaster Management Agencies) which can only produce paper reports while most of the efforts on the ground are conducted by volunteers. NDMA should be tasked to prepare year wise progress report to justify its existence otherwise it should be folded now that the PDMAs are also operational at the provincial level.
Over the years there is so much negative energy in the system that no one is prepared to stick their head out. NDMA has been mostly headed by three-star Generals in uniform yet they have underperformed. Pakistan needs a new water management plan as the glaciers will continue to melt in the summers together with the torrential rains. Relief alone will not be enough prevention is vitally needed. Let NRCC coordinate relief efforts while NDMA should burn the midnight oil to prepare for the next summer season which is only a few months away.
Unfortunately, there are no drivers left in the system. Almost the entire administrative set-up is rudderless. At the end of the day, nothing gets done. I remember once I had the opportunity as Chairman of Pakistan Science Foundation to chair a seminar on the Glaciers of Pakistan. The papers by foreign experts were well researched while local expertise was inadequate. At the end of the session, I asked the national experts if they had ever visited the Glaciers or measured their rate of melt, the answer as always was “There is a lack of funds”. As the Chairman of the Pakistan Science Foundation, I gave an open invitation for funding research but no one showed up indicating a lack of interest. A similar situation was observed in a conference on ‘Damage Caused by Weeds’. According to the researchers, every year, weeds damage our crops by over $2 billion. In 75 years of our existence, the total damage comes to $150 billion which is more than our external debt.
While we have been hit by global warming there are also disasters within that remain unchecked. As a nation we find ourselves entrapped and strangulated by our inefficiencies and mismanagement. Challenges keep surmounting while we have stories to narrate with massive cover-up networks to protect mediocrity and corruption. The criminals are smart; they wear gloves and leave no fingerprints. Without traceability, there can be no correction. The levers of power are in the wrong hands and keep circulating from department to department and government to government. We need action, not reports from NDMA, PDMA, NRCC, ERRA and the others like them who continue to fell trees by excessive, unwanted, unnecessary use of paper which can be put to better use. In the US they say it’s the bottom line that counts, not the preceding details.