Pakistan's history of disasters and the lessons we fail to learn

Author

Mansoor Raza

Source(s)
Dawn Media Group

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According to the Federal Flood Commission, Pakistan has witnessed 28 super riverine floods in its 75-year history. The first recorded super flood was witnessed in 1950, followed by 1955, 1956, 1957, 1959, 1973, 1975, 1976, 1977, 1978, 1981, 1983, 1984, 1988, 1992, 1994, 1995 and then every year since 2010 — which also saw the worst flood in the country’s history. These floods collectively affected 616,558 square kilometres of land, snatched 13,262 precious human lives and caused losses worth over Rs39 billion to the national economy.

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What is particularly interesting to note is that though the province has a centuries-old history of natural disasters, successive post-independence governments have largely have been less responsive to this reoccurring phenomenon and failed to act in a proactive manner.

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The development mindset of the planners is, at best, insensitive towards their environmental obligations and treats the ecology as a mere commodity. The market-based economy does not account for the cost of ecological destruction and the natural habitats are taken for granted.

On the other hand, a shift in paradigm is needed from a reactive to a proactive mode of disaster management to alleviate the sufferings of the community. The dominant approach to dealing with disasters, which offers no space for community-based initiatives — since it sees communities/victims, as part of the problem for which solutions need to be worked out — is not very appealing.

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