Learn from the past: 'Of Rs231b, only Rs500m set aside for relief by Sindh govt' -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

Learn from the past: ‘Of Rs231b, only Rs500m set aside for relief by Sindh govt’

By: Hafeez Tunio

KARACHI: Despite two successive mega floods in the past two years and the prediction of 15 per cent more rains this monsoon season, disaster management, contingency planning and humanitarian relief are sectors for which the Sindh government allocated the least amount of funds.

This was revealed in report released by Peoples Accountability Commission on Floods (PACF) on Friday. It was titled ‘Analysis of funds allocation status to disaster-related initiatives and issues’.

According to the report, the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) had advised all the provinces to allocate Rs5 billion for emergencies. But out of a total development budget of Rs231 billion, the Sindh government allocated only Rs500 million for relief and rescue. The budget also does not include compensation for livestock or other animals, and also does not promise aid for providing shelter to the flood survivors.

The report also points out that the Sindh government did not allocate adequate funds for emergencies and is hoping to receive humanitarian funding again from donors and that too from those who had not shown any interest during the floods in 2011.

The NDMA had declared 29 districts in the country vulnerable after the metrological department predicted 15 per cent increase in rains this year. Nine districts are in Sindh and they are Badin, Thatta, Tando Mohammed Khan, Tando Allahyar, Mirpurkhas, Sanghar, Umerkot, Tharparkar and Dadu.

However, these districts face serious budget constraints and hence making relief arrangements will be extremely difficult. Moreover, there is no body on the district-level like the provincial disaster management authorities to manage funds and maintain the stocks of items required for emergencies, such as life boats, life-saving jackets, drinking water and tents. It falls onto the shoulders of the deputy commissioners to manage relief and rescue work.

The report added that both the provincial bodies responsible for disaster management, the relief department and Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA), lack trained staff and funds. However, the United Nations sent its volunteers to PDMA for coordination and support.

Lessons to learn

Though the federal government doled out Rs23.5 billion in 2011 in the form of Pakistan Cards, rabi package and rehabilitating the damaged infrastructure, the funds fell prey to ‘bad governance’.

The example given was of the rabi package in which Sindh’s agriculture department spent Rs2 billion for distributing free fertiliser, wheat and sunflower seeds, to the farmers in flood-hit areas.

Another example was of strengthening river embankments. Around 45 places were marked where the embankments had to be repaired and reinforced but the matter was not take seriously even though a lot of funds were allocated for it in the 2011-2012 budget.

However, said the report, the Sindh government miserably failed in restoring old natural water ways (Dhoras) to drain out rain water. On the other hand, as the third potential flood looms around the corner, flood water hasn’t been drained from low-lying, such as Umerkot, Sanghar, Mirpurkhas, Badin and Tando Mohammad Khan, since last year.

Proposed solutions

The report suggested that separate disaster management funds should be established at provincial level and the district administrations allocate at least two per cent of their budgets for disaster preparation.

The roles of PDMA and the relief department should be more refined so that their functions don’t overlap.

The report said that small relief projects should be launched instead of billion-dollar projects by the federal government. Funds should be allocated for them at the union council level to meet the needs of the people in the area.

It also stressed that the implementation of all the contingency and rehabilitation plans should be transparent.

The Express Tribune