ISLAMABAD: Chairman National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) Lieutenant General Inam Haider Malik, Monday, said that the disaster management system in Pakistan was currently undergoing a transformational phase, shifting from a reactive to a proactive approach, saying in the near future, the country will utilize all modern techniques to deal with pre- and post-calamities.

Addressing a seminar organized by the NDMA on the occasion of “National Resilience Day” at the National University of Science and Technology (NUST) University, Malik highlighted the national vision for proactive disaster management in Pakistan. The seminar was aimed at highlighting the challenges and opportunities for national preparedness, disaster risk reduction and resilience building in Pakistan.

He briefed about the establishment of a modern National Emergencies Operation Center (NEOC) at the NDMA recently inaugurated by the prime minister of Pakistan on 5th October 2023. He underlined the capabilities of NEOC enabled by multiple satellite feeds, soft ware, and artificial intelligence tools to generate National Common Operating Picture (NCOP) which would strengthen digital risk assessment, early warning systems and preparedness strategies for Pakistan.

The seminar was divided into two sessions titled, “archived reflections - Pak exposures to disasters” and “anticipatory actions, global expectations, proactive approach” respectively.

The first session focused on the lessons learned from past disasters and the best practices adopted by Pakistan in disaster management. The second session discussed the future trends and scenarios of disasters and the need for anticipatory actions and proactive approaches to reduce disaster risks.

Former Air Chief Marshal Sohail Amman speaking as the chief guest appreciated the efforts of NDMA and its partners in enhancing the resilience of the nation in the face of disasters. He also stressed the importance of integrating disaster risk reduction into development planning and policies.

Lieutenant General Nadeem Ahmed (retd) said the 2005 earthquake incurred massive losses in lives, property, infrastructure, and communities. However, the relief operations during the 2005 earthquake were the largest helicopter relief sorties in the history of mankind as some 30,474 heli sorties were flown to provide assistance and manage relief. "We used UN organizations, civil society organizations to drive the relief efforts in quake-hit areas and for inaccessible areas the military was approached. It helped in providing relief on time and no one died of hunger. Pakistan only faced the first wave of death, whereas, further losses were circumvented and the credit goes to our medical experts," he added. Shedding light on lessons learnt, he said four priority areas namely; food, shelter, health, and water should be focused during such important calamities.

He added that the government should not hesitate to deploy the military in disasters because they have the resources and are the quickest responders to emergent situations. He added that joint and integrated logistics should be created in disasters; whereas; media management was extremely important, do not prolong relief beyond a threshold as there is no concept of reconstruction without relief.

Federal Caretaker Minister for Planning and Development Sami Saeed, while lauding the role of the NDMA in coordinating and facilitating disaster management activities in the country, emphasized the need for investing in disaster risk reduction and resilience building as a key component of sustainable development.

Vice President Al-Khidmat Foundation, Air Marshal (retired) Farooq Habib said the scale of disasters faced by Pakistan was so extent that no Pakistani could remain aloof from the impacts. He added that the beautiful terrain of the country was prone to disasters, whereas, climate change was one of the serious risks posing long-term security threats to the country.

Special Secretary to the Prime Minister of Azad Jammu and Kashmir Masoodur Rehman said the 2005 earthquake was a great tragedy and the most difficult relief activities were done as his own family members were under the rubble of dilapidated houses.

Chairman Federal Flood Commission (FFC) Ahmed Kamal said there were erratic changes to the monsoon system of the region which has increased the recurrence of heavy rain falls. However, the country was still working on developing a proactive approach. He noted that the systematic hiccups were hindering the country's journey to achieve a proactive and coherent system for disaster management.

Deputy Executive Director Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) Dr Shafqat Munir Ahmed said disasters had become a recurrent phenomenon and it was important to find how to cope with it. He recommended that there should be at least 10 percent in the budget to focus on disaster recovery and rehabilitation. "The UN flash appeals were not met in terms of climate finance. We will have to look into local resources and focus on a reduction of our carbon footprint to achieve climate resilience. Moreover, it is necessary to club Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) Framework and Climate Change Adaptation to focus on community-based DRR," he said.

Head of Office UNOCHA Carlos Geha said Pakistan is a nation of diverse cultures and rich history that is facing recurring disasters from floods to droughts. The natural disasters have taken thousands of lives but Pakistan is on the right track and taking great steps since the 2005 earthquake, he said. Geha added that the country has been successful in establishing its efficient disaster response infrastructure through military, civil, and philanthropic organizations. He suggested that it was needed to take contingency planning to the community level and work closer with the communities.

Secretary Emergency Services Punjab Dr Rizwan Naseer said the 2005 earthquake was a difficult situation that posed a massive challenge to respond with no disaster management organizational infrastructure on the ground. However, it took Rescue 1122, the first emergency service in Pakistan, more than a decade to reach from a local emergency service to become the first Insuring Certified in South Asia.

All the provinces have replicated the emergency service model but Sindh and Balochistan were still lagging behind which needed to be probed, he said. He mentioned that lack of capacity and accountability was the issue in the realm of disaster management at the grassroots level that needed to be addressed.

He suggested that a single national institution for land use and building control authority should be established which would help mitigate many hazards and disasters.

International Organization of Migration (ILM) Senior Programme Manager Suzana Paklar, while stressing the need for strengthening the capacity of institutions in dealing with disasters, said that knowledge and capacity building should not be associated with individuals but with institutions. "It is necessary to train mind and body to respond to disasters and the same is with the communities. Knowledge and capacity building should not be associated with individuals but rather institutions," she added.

She said that it was very important to not rely on that generic resilience but rather complement it with further preparations, adding that timely, complete and consistent information sharing was important be it earthquake as science was progressing and reaching closer to predict earthquake this could help in early warnings.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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