Preventable disaster


WEB DESK: Heavy rains and snowfall have caused widespread deaths and destruction in different parts of the country. According to the Disaster Management Authority, until Sunday 86 lives had perished in landslides and roof collapses in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan, Azad Kashmir and Punjab. At least another 100 people have been injured and, 240 houses destroyed and many roads rendered unusable.

The death toll and the injuries cannot simply be accepted as a natural calamity beyond human control. Unlike earthquakes such weather events are predictable. In fact, the Met Office had issued an advisory about imminent torrential rains and also warned of landslides. Yet the people were left on their own to deal with the impending disaster. Many of the lives could have been saved had the local administrations declared emergency and evacuated people from the landslide prone areas to safer places. If only the Rs 300,000 announced for families of the dead had been spent on rescuing people before the calamity hit many of these people would still be alive.

Unfortunately, however, taking precautionary measures is something alien to those in authority. Even after the destructive effects of heavy rains and snowfall, it was business as usual for them. In Chitral, nine teenaged boys were buried alive on Saturday in snow while on their way back to their village after appearing in matriculation examination. In view of the weather conditions the exams could have been postponed. But despite recurring rain-related tragedies, the policy remains to act after the fact, often leading to grievous consequences.

A search operation launched to recover the missing boys failed to offer hope to the distraught parents. During the recent years heavy rains have been playing havoc with life and property in different parts of the country, yet there is no serious effort to mitigate the effects of such calamities.

Almost every rainy season several lives are lost in house collapses because those living in them are too poor to afford repair work. Such indifference to human suffering, to say the least, is deplorable.

With the growing population and changing weather patterns, the situation is going to aggravate unless the government gets its act together and prepares to deal with future calamities. It will not be enough to issue warnings of a coming blow from Nature. The Disaster Management Authority ought to provide timely help to the people to ensure their safety.

Equally important is the need for longer term measures to offset rain disasters. Some of the obvious things that need to be done are to stop the haphazard growth of human habitations hindering the natural flow of rainwater, and laying new storm water drains. Trees being the best bet against flash floods and environmental degradation; tree plantation needs to be undertaken on an emergency basis. One can only hope preventable losses of life, like at present one, will not keep occurring every now and then.

Business Recorder