Thar drought linked to bad governance

KARACHI: Dr Sono Khangharani, a civil society activists and CEO of Hissar Foundation sharing his experience about the Thar drought said the negligence on the part of government institutions and bureaucrats was the main cause of deaths and over all deprivation in the desert.

“Certain officials do not have know-how to understand the nature of disasters  like droughts, earthquakes and floods. That is why they do not have any plans to avert such intensity disasters and mitigating the effects.”

Dr. Khangharani said this while giving his input at the concluding session of a two-day partners meeting: “A review of interventions, campaigns and movements for advocating the structural reforms agenda”, organized by Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (PILER) at its center here on Thursday.

“Impacts of droughts go for longtime as compared to other disasters. In this situation the issue of livelihood should be understood and compensation for losses is a must to give confidence to the people to live a safer life,” observed Dr. Khangharani.

Former Chief Economist Dr Pervez Tahir, PILER’s Joint Director Zulfiqar Shah, Ms. Zeenia Shaukat, Ms. Zeenat Hissam, Mr. Parial Mari, Ms. Akeela Naz, Jameel Junejo (PFF)  and others also spoke on the occasion.

Dr Sono said drought destroys water sources, farm lands and pastures contributing to land degradation and causing crops to fail and livestock to perish. Talking about role of the government he said the first party, which responds quickly to disaster is the government.

After 2005 earthquake we can see the government has moved to long term planning for development and rehabilitation. The indicators show betterment in the affected areas. “We can see the WASH development, water filtration and sanitation mechanism at household level in the villages because the communities have learned after experiencing the disaster, destruction and displacement.” In this way disaster risk reduction and sustainable development have now become possible and part of common agenda, he added.

Irony is that in Pakistan there is no system and understanding about the importance of the natural waterways. Similarly, he said old rivers pathways are ‘missing’ under the development and said how we can recover the same in its natural status.

He said water being a limited resource is under pressure by different users and increasing demands to satisfy different sectors’ needs. Besides, civil society and technocrats have emerged in the process. He also appreciated the role of media, which covered the disasters and people’s problems effectively.

He said when Flood in river Indus 2010 hit the Sindh province we witnessed vulnerability of the people in most parts. But after the disaster we can see the quality of new infrastructure has improved. This paradigm shift in the development agenda should also be realized.

He pointed out that the diversity of problems and challenges exist, which included social challenges, economic challenges, financial environmental challenges and institutional challenges.

He said Thar Canal was designed to irrigate desert areas of Tharparkar district, which was to be constructed at a cost of Rs 32 billion, but the work is yet to take a momentum. The people in Thar demand water even during the floods season. The canal was planned to flow from Guddu Barrage direct to reach Tharparkar and irrigate the wide area.

Dr Pervez Tahir, former Chief Economist said the government does not have equipments to control even minor emergencies like fire at a factory or a road accident. He said usually the government officials are not available in their respective offices. But during their presence they do not initiate on their own to see the issues but wait for the people to come and complain.

He said there is no role of labour inspectors and other organizations to fulfill their responsibilities to inspect the factories.

Zeenia Shaukat of PILER said whenever monsoon season approaches the district administration announces to have contingency plans to cope with any emergency, showing relief and other assets. But this proves ineffective when the emergency hits. Deputy Commissioners do not have sufficient budgets, specifically to the cope with disaster effects. Talking about the newly designed climate change policy, she said deforestation, water resources degradation are not mentioned in the policy draft.

She also said that irrigation department should be made responsible and accountable in case of any mishap because it is the department’s responsibility to have such planning.

The other speakers said the role of forest department officials is missing to monitor the status of forests because the riverine forest land has been leased out to certain influential persons, destroying entire tree cover.

The meeting appreciated the role of peasant movement of Punjab, Anjuman Mazareen, fishermen’s movement, Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum and other such organizations, which have links to the community and may come forward to lead the social movements.

At the last, meeting collected suggestions about the agenda including institution, land rights and social security.

Representatives of different humanitarian organizations, responding to disasters, underlined the need for efforts of awareness raising among the local communities who may lead the movement for land reforms.

They pointed out that the issue of farmers, village artisan women to have access to markets to earn better living. Apart from this these rural women should know the social security and rights the Constitution of Pakistan guarantees. They said the government should give legal status to agriculture workers at least as worker entitle of all facilities they can get as per the labour laws.

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