EDITORIAL: Come rainy season and the same cycle of destruction repeats itself – flash floods, roof collapses, lightning strikes, electrocution, closed roads, death and displacement – some of it very preventable. What is more, some wretched parts of the country always suffer a lot more than others.

So it has been for the longest time, and so it seems destined for a while to come. Because just as persistent as the annual carnage is the state’s inability, perhaps unwillingness, to take adequate preventive steps that will save a lot of lives, infrastructure and money every year.

There’s another story that plays out every time. In Quetta, for example, it’s been reported that around 200 employees of “concerned departments” have been sacked “for negligence in performing their duties during heavy rains”. It turns out that the “main reason for rain damage was encroachment on 82 nullahs in and around the provincial capital that blocked the flow of rainwater from roads and human settlements”.

The division commissioner lamented that the rain nullahs were 40 feet wide when constructed, “but now only 20 feet remain because of encroachment”.

That of course begs the obvious question of why all this was not found out and corrected ahead of time. It’s bad enough for the system to be in such disarray, but when it happens every time, without fail, then the rot clearly runs very deep. Heads must roll, no doubt, but the axe should not stop at a couple of hundred low level employees, it must go all the way to the very top where the burden of responsibility is supposed to be the heaviest.

Now, with “rain emergency” declared in parts of the country, poor residents can do nothing more than watch their homes wash away and their lives and livelihoods put in peril all over again. Since the civil administration has failed, and continues to fail, to prevent yet another foreseen natural disaster, perhaps someone in government should give a thought to resetting the whole disaster management system.

All it does in its present state is gobble resources all year long and then prove a disaster itself when the test, for which it has been preparing, comes.

The problem is that such things bring us right back to the wider, bigger, and much more important issue of institutional reform. Everybody knows it is unavoidable, all parties lobby for it on the campaign trail, yet nobody does it once they come to power. Because it is a long and painful process that will increase public discontent in the short term and possibly cost the incumbent the next election. That’s why nobody can match their tall claims with actions.

And so the cycle goes on. Yet a country barely managing to stay afloat can afford only so many self-inflicted wounds. It’s a shame every time people die, life is affected and the economy tanks because of problems that would not have arisen if people in government, especially in ministries, only did their jobs right.

One can only hope, as always, that next time will be different.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2024

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