Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Waiting for Armageddon

Zofeen Ibrahim in Dawn.com (Pakistan): As the earth heats up, the frequency of rainfalls increases and temperatures are recorded by new highs and lows – weather extremes once considered anomalies are now becoming a part our daily lives.

...Pakistan had not even pieced its life together after the 2005 earthquake, when the 2010 deluge submerged a fifth of the country. The following year, the country went into the throes of yet another bout of floods. Disasters are limited by narrow time margins and technology offers limited advanced warning, forcing us to pre-empt and prepare for them to strike – at any place, any time.

“Considering topography as diverse as Pakistan’s and the unpredictable climate somersaults, we need to be prepared for all kinds of disasters at any instance,” Naseer Memon, who heads the Strengthening Participatory Organisation, told Dawn.com in an interview.

Since earthquakes cannot be predicted well in advance, modern science has been unable to develop an early warning system. However, Memon said, floods can be forecast to a great extent. “Except for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, where the 2010 deluge came in the shape of flash floods, miseries could have been assuaged in the rest of the country,” he reflected.

Has Pakistan learned anything from these tragedies? Is there a plan in place to stem the losses when horror strikes? Are we revisiting building codes? Are we geared towards sustainable development in the rebuilding process? And more importantly, given our peculiar landscape, is the government prepared for any lurking disasters?

Most experts remain unconvinced about Pakistan’s preparedness to meet the vagaries of weather. To each disaster, experts say, the government’s approach has been reactive....

An aerial view of flooding in Pakistan taken from a a US Marine helicopter. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Capt. Paul Duncan/Released)

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