Local govt infrastructure in quake zone being restored
ABBOTTABAD: The massive challenge of restoring local government capacity across the earthquake-zone is gathering momentum — thanks to a an international initiative. Hundreds of government buildings were severely damaged or destroyed when last year’s disaster tore through the NWFP and Azad Jammu and Kashmir, crippling administration infrastructure in an area already poorly resourced. The 18-month project – jointly funded by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the European Commission (EC) — seeks to restore capacity by providing new offices, equipment and staff training in a $5.4 million support package.
The first of 155 prefabricated office units for NWFP, manufactured in Italy, were delivered and installed mid-October in local government centres in quake-affected Mansehra, Battagram and Balakot districts. The units, typically measuring 3.6 by six metres, come complete with office furniture for four staff, a personnel computer and seating for eight visitors. Some offices are fitted with washrooms and air-conditioning. Installation in the worst-hit quake areas in NWFP of Mansehra and Battagram districts is underway, with all office units set to be delivered and operational by mid-January, United Nations Area Coordinator for the province, Anwarul Haq said.
The programme would focus on rebuilding capacity at the local level, providing a level of structure, equipment and training that would allow a higher degree of efficiency than before the earthquake struck, he said. The initiative is being simultaneously implemented in AJK. “Some local government officials are still sitting in tents. But this project is not just about restoring government infrastructure and improving working conditions after the emergency, it is also designed to promote a change in culture and greater efficiency,” he said. Some local government offices had not been equipped with computers before the earthquake, he said. Meanwhile, training was also being conducted for key representatives and elected members of regional government and national non-government organisations (NGOs), in a further effort to bring best practices to the grass-roots level.
An additional part of the project will focus on restoring the lost records of up to 1.5 million people across the earthquake zone. A academic with government experience, Musharaf Cyan, is set to arrive from New York at the end of this week to begin data and record assessments across the NWFP. Haq said that there was much more work still to be done in 2007, but he was pleased with the progress. Earlier this month the British government’s Department for International Development (DFID) also expressed its “willingness to fund” an extension of the programme across Abbottabad, Kohistan and Shangla districts in NWFP, which were also hit by the earthquake.
Source: Daily Times