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More than a blip on the radar: K-P slowly gears up to set up disaster management cell

January 30, 2014

The Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government has announced its intention to take concrete steps to establish a `Disaster Risk Management’ cell, which will address issues in disaster prone areas of the province. A workshop titled `Roadmap for Disaster Risk Management in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa’ was organised by the Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) on Wednesday in Peshawar . Stakeholders, including representatives from humanitarian organisations, academics and the army attended the event. Given that no risk assessment has been carried out in the calamity-hit areas, this development is an encouraging sign. The province has faced several natural disasters in the recent past. Monsoon rains leading to floods as recently as August last year and earthquakes punctuated by frequent man-made crisis have damaged the very fabric of K-P. Yet, authorities remain lax in establishing early warning systems. PDMA Director General Tahir Orakzai claimed the PDMA has proposed comprehensive frameworks that will identify and bring together various stakeholders to give shape to a holistic system of risk management. This, Orakzai hoped, will be a step towards a disaster-resilient K-P. ”While formulating disaster risk management plans, there is a need to streamline resources, timeframes and dedicated partners for implementation,“ admitted Orakzai. He added the implementation of said roadmap will require identification of priority projects across disaster-prone areas of the province. The PDMA director regretted the fact that both natural and man-made disasters in the past have caused great suffering. ”In recent years, climate change has posed fresh challenges to which disaster management strategies must have answers to.“ The need for preparedness and the development of adequate response mechanisms is urgent, argued Orakzai. He based his claim on the fact that changes in climate patterns will possibly translate into higher frequencies of natural calamities. The vulnerability of the province to a large number of disasters highlights the critical need for disaster management and risk assessment mechanisms. PDMA Housing and Disaster Risk Management Adviser Shah Nasir also spoke on the occasion. Nasir revealed the objectives of the five-year roadmap were to identify gaps in risk management and devise plans of action across the province. This would be in addition to identifying resources, for implementation of risk management programmes. The K-P government has since long pushed the centre to arrange for modern, early-warning systems at strategic locations in the province. While they argue it would better place the province to cater to a natural calamity in the future, the Federal Minister for Defence Production has as yet only made assurances about `strong recommendations’ with nothing of note having taken place. The province was also promised a Doppler radar system, and while its installation was approved for Chitral and Cherat in PPP’s tenure at the centre, the federal government this time around allocated no funds in the Public Sector Development Programme for the radar systems implementation. A PDMA official alleged the province has no modern system for monitoring flood levels, which means the irrigation department is left in the dark, making calculations manually by measuring water levels in streams and rivers. USAID and UNDP have expressed an interest in setting up the radars, but, the PDMA official revealed, the disaster management body is not allowed to raise funds on its own.

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Source: Express Tribune (Pakistan)

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