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Karachi vulnerable to disasters as it lacks preparedness, says mayor

Updated February 21, 2019

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"Natural disasters cost Pakistan $18bn since 2005 earthquake."— DawnNewsTV/File
"Natural disasters cost Pakistan $18bn since 2005 earthquake."— DawnNewsTV/File

KARACHI: City Mayor Wasim Akhtar has said that Pakistan is one of the global hotspots in terms of risk of geological, hydro-meteorological and climate disasters and the country has suffered over $18 billion in damages and losses from natural disasters over the past decade.

“In the past few years, we have been hit by major catastrophes, including the earthquake in 2005, and floods in 2007, 2010 and 2011. Unfortunately, despite this spate of catastrophic natural disasters, no attention, or resources, are being given to [address] the issue,” he said.

The mayor expressed these views while speaking as the chief guest at the ‘First South Asia Conference on Earthquake Engineering’ held at the NED University of Engineering and Technology on Wednesday.

RANDOLPH Langenbach, an expert on disaster recovery, speaks at the conference at NED university on Wednesday.—White Star
RANDOLPH Langenbach, an expert on disaster recovery, speaks at the conference at NED university on Wednesday.—White Star

Dr Sarosh Lodhi, Vice Chancellor of NED University, Patchamuthu Illangovan, country director of the World Bank in Pakistan, faculty members, and students participated in the conference.

The mayor said that development agenda should have measures to deal with natural disasters and for implementing them it was important that the local government system in the country was strengthened.

‘Natural disasters cost Pakistan $18bn since 2005 earthquake’

He said: “South Asia Conference on Earthquake Engineering will serve as a platform to better understand the latest developments in earthquake engineering and disaster management by the industry players and stakeholders in the construction industry in the country”.

He said that hosting of this event was a clear recognition that policies for effective disaster prevention needed strong institutions to ensure their implementation. “The NED’s Department of Earthquake Engineering has provided great momentum to the efforts that were already under way to address Pakistan’s vulnerability to earthquakes,” he added.

Mr Akhtar said that Pakistan was ranked eighth on the list of countries facing natural disasters; however 95 per cent of constructions were not in accordance with the principles of earthquake engineering.

He recalled that in the aftermath of the 2005 earthquake, the government promulgated the National Disaster Preparedness Ordinance which resulted in the establishment of the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA). “However, a structure below the provincial level to manage funds and maintain the stocks of items required for emergencies is still missing in the country,” he said.

Karachi’s vulnerability

“With insufficient disaster management preparedness in the city, Karachi is in a very vulnerable position. Therefore, the importance of factoring in natural disasters in the development agenda, and the consultative process towards strengthening local governments’ capacity for DRR [disaster risk reduction] can only be achieved through the participation of multi-stakeholders such as civil society groups, academia professionals”, he said.

The mayor said the disaster risk reduction was about protecting human lives and disaster management gave confidence to people and made the communities stronger when a disaster struck.

He expressed the hope that all the participants and industry players present at the conference would take this opportunity to strengthen their networking and seek ways for future collaborations.

“It is important that the public and private sectors come together to work collaboratively and synergistically in improving our technical readiness in enhancing our departmental and organisational competitiveness,” he said.

The mayor also said that only 30.9pc area of Karachi was under the municipal control of the KMC, while the rest was under the administrative control of other organisations.

Besides, he said that building control, water and sewerage, transport, solid waste management, civil defence, Karachi Development Authority, health and education were not under the city’s municipal administration.

Published in Dawn, February 21st, 2019