How not to prepare for disasters

Garam Chashma Diary — Islamuddin, Garm Chasma Chitral


Chitral has been declared a disaster prone region. Apart from being located on the red zone for earthquakes, Chitral runs the risk of facing disasters originating from changed climatic conditions. Without the overwhelming spirit of humanity that has been the hallmark of Chitralis, these challenges cannot be met. I was shocked to hear the other day that an accidented vehicle remained on the roadside for many hours at Garam Chashma road along with passengers, many of whom seriously injured in the accident. About half a dozen vehicles reportedly passed by but no one stopped to take the injured to the hospital. After many hours they were able to call a vehicle and by that time one passenger had died.

Few days back a datsun fell into the river near Chew Bridge. Many passengers could have been saved, had timely helped reached there. The scene was flooded by spectators but no one was prepared to dive into the river to rescue the passengers gasping for life. By the time heavy machinery arrived the passengers had died and few corpses got loose and flowed away with the current when the marooned vehicle was being towed up and there was no arrangement to recover them from the river. Dead body of a Scout fighting terrorism in Bajaur is yet to be recovered. Plight of his family can be imagined.

This brings us to the question of preparedness to meet disasters. There are many NGOs working in this area. Even the district administration is said to have prepared Disaster Management Plan. Enormous would have gone into activities to create awareness about disasters and how to meet the challenges but without paying any attention to the most important aspect of preparedness. How ill prepared we are to meet a routine risk, stands exposed by the recent accident. Not a single diver has been trained to save people from drowning in rivers despite the fact that drowning claims considerable human lives every year and Chitral faces the highest level of flash flood risks. Some soul searching is needed on part of Government and NGOs claiming to be working in this area.

It is time that Government agencies and NGOs put their acts together and did something about it. At least three divers from each UC should be trained. FOCUS Humanitarian Assistance should lead the way. Secondly programs may be chalked out to revive the great humanitarian spirit of Chitralis to help each other. Proper legal paradigm to facilitate this self- help may be put in place. The parasitic mindset of making money through disasters should come to an end. The frequency of natural disasters would make it impossible for the Government to keep on compensating and time has come for self-reliance. The sooner we wake up to this reality the better.