Wednesday, March 16, 2011


By Rabia Ahmed | Published: March 17, 2011
Aid poured in to Pakistan following devastating floods last year, including aid from Holland and Japan. The Dutch raised over €16 million and the Japanese sent six helicopters, 200 rescuers and over $20 million.
Just a few days ago, on the 11th of March, Japan was struck by an earthquake measuring 8.9 on the Richter scale, followed by a Tsunami as well as a nuclear explosion at a reactor site. There have been many casualties, and the search continues for missing persons.
Is it possible for Pakistan to offer aid in return, was a question posed on Facebook.
Japan is prone to earthquakes, and the Netherlands to flooding. In 1923, one of the worst earthquakes in known history hit Kanto in Japan, and devastated Tokyo, Yokohama and surrounding areas. An estimated 140,000 people died as a result. 1995 witnessed an earthquake at Kobe, which killed 6,000 people, and injured more than 400,000. The poor state of preparedness for earthquakes at the time of the Kobe quake angered the Japanese and the government responded with measures on two fronts: Japan’s building regulations were amended, and appropriate rescue methodology was put into place.
Buildings constructed under the new code were built on shock absorbers enabling them to sway with seismic waves rather than against them, and roads were redesigned to allow free passage for rescue vehicles. As a result of these measures the loss of life in subsequent quakes was minimized. Every member of the Japanese public is aware of what to do in case of an earthquake, and is trained to do it by means of regular drills. The current earthquake, strong as it was at 8.9, caused less loss of life than it would have in another country.
More than half of Holland, once swamp land reclaimed from the sea, is prone to floods. The 13th century witnessed several disastrous floods in the country, the St Lucia flood killing almost 80,000 people. The first dikes to hold back the waters were built as early as the 12th century however, as reported by a committee in 1977, these were too weak and required strengthening.
In subsequent floods, thousands of people had to be moved to safe ground, and the dikes were almost breached. It was then that the existing Water Boards were reorganised; they now maintain the dikes, modern technology has been harnessed to increase their effectiveness, and stringent measures have been put in place to check the structures for safety. Today, Holland is an authority on flood prevention, just as Japan is an authority on earthquake-proof construction and safety measures.
A mother moving her children to safety
Pakistan 2011
Pakistan is prone both to floods and earthquakes, and heaven help us, but we also have nuclear power plants. In 2010, about 20 million people in Pakistan were affected by flooding, and almost one fifth of the country went under water. In places, flood waters were diverted away from the lands of influential persons by the simple method of deliberately breaking flood barriers. A Federal Flood Commission (FFC) had been set up in 1977 under the aegis of the Ministry of Water and Power and had achieved much on paper, but reports (and experience) indicate that in actual fact this was not the case; the usual factors of corruption and useless leadership being the reason.
Earthquake in Kashmir 2005
In 2005, an earthquake measuring 7.6 on the Richter scale hit Kashmir in Pakistan. Almost 80,000 people died as a result, with massive destruction of property, mainly because of the poor quality of construction.
Billions of rupees in aid poured in from around the world, distributed via the Government of Pakistan’s Earthquake Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Authority (ERRA) to the people of Pakistan, or so it should have been. The performance of this organisation has been subsequently criticised for the same reasons as the FFC.
Many persons displaced by floods are still living in tents in Pakistan. No measures have been taken to prevent subsequent disasters. Rehabilitation was undertaken mostly by NGOs and other private organisations.
A shameful consequence of previous experiences with aid was the pathetic level of donations made to the Government of Pakistan. A donor in England informed me that she ‘wouldn’t dream of donating to the Prime Minister’s fund, my deah,’ and donated instead to Edhi.
In a reenactment of the Nero fiddling while Rome burnt scene, the President of Pakistan was on holiday when the floods hit, and did not deign to return for some time.
My heart aches for the people of Japan, and I wish we could reciprocate the aid they so generously gave us when we needed it. However, for Pakistan to be in a position to offer aid to anyone else implies that it has managed to bring its own house under some kind of order first.
Does anyone, anyone at all think this is the case?
This news was published in print paper. To access the complete paper of this day. click here

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