Saturday, July 30, 2011

Flood Mitigation:Planning and Community Participation In Pakistan.

Akhtar Ali,gives very simple yet effective measures in flood mitigation and community participation keeping in view the problems and issues in Pakistan especially land allotment and methods to address land conservation, land use and cultivator/poor farmer subsistence. These solutions provide doable and economically viable steps that ,if taken by provincial governments can  markedly reduce the destructive impact and increase resilience and capability of the communities affected.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Current State Of Post Flood Rehabilitation Activities In Sindh:Problems and Difficulties.

Post floods 2010 the strategies to rehabilitate the millions of people displaced in Pakistan included building of shelters immediately for the displaced people and those that lost their homes. In Sindh according to Church Relief Services , an NGO working since 1950s to help Pakistanis, some 20,000 dwellings have been built. InSindh they are made of bamboo and straw mats with clay bricks and plastering.The clay bricks moulds have been given to the families to help themselves later and also can help them earn a living from this activity.
I have been following the information from various sources including Mr Zahid Memon frrom Dadu and Mr. Navid Nazim Jatoi, a Karachi journalist active in Sindh for reconstruction activities and Ms. Azra Memon, running an NGO, Nari, in Dadu, Sindh who has been involved with thousands of displaced flood affected people since the floods devastated Sindh.
According to Mr. Zaihid  Memon temporary shelters are bieng built in areas ravaged along right bank of Indus where massive displacement and devastation took place. They have been to villages that were totally destroyed in areas of Dadu, Mehar and other districts where people are rebuilding temporary structures on self help basis. There has been not much or almost invisible help from government and other relief agencies.
As I was involved in linking, SOS for relief with foreign agencies,monitoring the information, mapping and relief activities including proposal making(voluntary) for the people displaced from day one, I have observed the relief activities and mechanisms from their inception by the aid agencies and local and international agencies. Just as relief was something in which we and foreign donors could do very meager and little help, the rehabilitation effort has been negligible too. Pakistan has suffered immensely. The people of Sindh especially right bank areas like Jacobabad, Khairpur Nathan Shah, Dadu, Mehar, Khairpur, some parts of Larkana, Sujawal, Thatta on left bank have not been able to come out of the devastation even 20%. Due to lack of funds and resources by the Sindh government they have not been able to help much. corruption and wadera shahi by a few powerful people has left the poor of Sindh almost like beggars. The sad part is that in the intense heat of May one year later they are still shelter-less, hungry, without clean drinking water, without much medical help in areas destroyed by floods.The relief agencies like OCHA who have helped initially have packed their services and the rest of relief agencies have meager resources and scope of activities.
The priority of the media and the government has shifted towards other issues like war on terror, terrorism , electricity crises etc and these people are a forgotten lot now , left to fend for themselves. While the rich and powerful in Sindh, which are plenty, are busy building their mansions, living in air conditioned houses in Karachi and Hyderabad , as they have three homes for comfort, the poor ,landless peasants suffer even without a temporary shelter. The middle class of towns like Khairpur Nathan Shah have been provided no loans or relief in any kind to rebuild their small businesses. No special small business activity centers for help and coordination, for guidance and networking is set up either by provincial or federal government.The federal government bogged by other issues is totally neglecting these unfortunate souls of Sindh province. Organisations like SMEDA(small and medium enterprise development association) are sleeping  along with their "helping " employees in air conditioned offices,the workers, small traders and businessmen, haris and population of Sindh suffers quietly, majestically, like the sufi spirit of Sachal Sarmast and Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai.
While pseudo-politicians like Imran Khan spout fiery tirades against government and talk about bringing revolution,and criticizing the US where their activity in relief was glaringly absent in Sindh and their relief activity is zero. They even took away the relief goods to Mianwali and  Khyber Pakhtunkhuwa areas donated from Karachi while the devastation was most in Sindh where largest number of people, land, crops, businesses were totally destroyed. The nationalist parties use fiery tirades against non-Sindhi speaking residents of Sindh as the only means to help the Sindhi speaking peoples, the poor in Sindh suffer silently majestically, like beautiful deities, their women, children and weak and old.
They need urgent financial help to set up their businesses. They need help with their agricultural activity. They need proper shelter, schools, clinics, communication systems. They need money in cash and help in kind. The international donors whose help was as meager and short as after a bake sale activity need to reassess the flood relief situation in Sindh and organize special humanitarian needs and assistance to rehabilitate these people. They have to re-energise their funding, organizations and mechanism for these silent majestic people. For the US it will be an investment in their future stability and safety. They should seriously address their aid for development issues and direct it to Sindh .

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Post Japan Earthquake And Tsunami...Nuclear Disaster Survival.11.

As the Fukushima Daichi nuclear plant still leaks radiation into the sea , the threat to our water and ocean environment looms large. 
 The questions to be asked are:
1.What is the concentration, extent of contamination?
2. How and what human population will it affect?
3.Will it enter the oceanic food chain and again what population it will affect?
4. What countries/markets will be affected and how can they help in decontamination/containment/awareness/protection of consumers/healthcare and health rights etc.
5. What is the status of post nuclear disaster human health rights and how do the international tribunals address these appeals?
6. Last but not least; How do the under ocean/ sea water currents carry away from Fukushima ,Japan coast?  If you look at the map of Japan as shown above you will notice that one side is the Sea of Japan and the other is the Pacific Ocean. The countries bordering the Sea of Japan are South Korea and further up China. As the Fukushima and other nuclear power plants are located on the other coast of Japan that faces the Pacific Ocean the contamination reaching these shores is least likely. The towns on the Japanese coastline that is affected are Tokyo,Shizouka, Sendai, The shores and harbors which are located on the Pacific rim and to which contamination can be directed are Bangkok, Hong Kong,Kaohsiung(Taiwan), Los Angeles(US), Manila  (Philippines) , San Fransisco(US), Seattle (US), Shanghai(China),Sydney(Australia), Vladivostok(Russia), Wellington(New Zealand), Yokohama(Japan).,Sakhalin (Russia).
The extent and concentration of contamination by radiation is evident from the fact that at Fukushima,radioactive Iodine in seawater near the drains running from the plant was 4,385 times more than the legal limit, according to Reuters. How this contamination is occurring, how will it be controlled and how soon is still not known to public. How will this contamination reach the shores of the towns and human population located around the Pacific rim is the most important question that plagues the minds of these people.This depends on the underwater currents also to a large extent. As most of the Pacific rim countries have large fishing economies through which they supply food to local and international markets, the extent of contamination will also affect the food chain . .
As to how the international tribunals and governments react to the health and human rights risk is a big issue that is being questioned and red flagged. Post Bhopal tragedy and Chernobyl disaster it has been known how the governments and the international community forgets and ignores the victims and how placid their attitude becomes.
The Green Peace and other environment and human rights groups have to step up their lobbying against use of nuclear and such chemical and largely destructive materials for use.It is high time that these issues find international consensus on moratorium, use and containment.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Post Japan Earthquake And Tsunami...Nuclear Disaster Survival.

Rescue teams are pivotal in survival after any disaster especially  earthquake, tsunami and nuclear explosions.
The Monster earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan last week has resulted in the damage to nuclear facilities that was neither envisaged on this scale and scope.The tragedy is that the Japanese have built and prepared maximum for the nuclear attack as they were the sufferers of the only twin attacks of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by the United States of America in history. They utilized the nuclear technology to built their power plants and utilize this for their energy needs. The Japanese have built excellent infrastructure as seen by the electricity and utility cables left standing, bridges in good condition and the hospital in Sendai surviving the tsunami and earthquake attack.
The tragedy of biblical proportions has shown the world that nuclear technology can never be safe and friendly even if built for constructive purposes such as use in power generation and electricity.The whole facility and technology is a hazard to humanity. The effects of Hiroshima and Nagasaki continue to this day. The Bhopal tragedy in India also showed us the threat to humans from chemicals.The supporters of using this technology for weapons purpose and even those that support its use for peaceful purpose especially in the Indian sub-continent and the Middle East need to understand that it can never be safe.
Fire at Nuclear power plant in Japan.
 If a country as peace loving, extremely advanced in discipline, hazard preparedness, technology is numb with shock at the overwhelming scale of the earthquake and tsunami disaster how can these socially and morally backward countries and peoples prepare and deal with a hazard when such occurs. The facilities in Pakistan and India are clandestinely hidden because they are for weapons purposes. Their preparedness for handling disaster and especially for the surrounding innocent population will always be questionable as the cultures in these backward countries is of conspiracy, linking weaponry with religion, no value for human life and dignity.
In Japan the nuclear power plants were well defined and well placed as all their planning and installation was done with safety as the utmost priority. Safety and hazard containment in Japan is a high priority moral and humanitarian issue. With a society such as the Japanese now overwhelmed in their capacity to deal with nuclear meltdowns, where can the primitive and morally corrupt societies that exist in Pakistan and India stand?
This question needs to be addressed by the Indians and Pakistanis themselves.
Japanese nuclear power plants are well mapped out not clandenistine like in Pakistan and India.

We can only write for awareness of citizens of this fragile world some measures that were written by a kind soul , Mr Barry Popkess in 1980 in his "The Nuclear Survival Handbook" through and after a nuclear attack.His interest in Civil Defence and Safety stemmed from the fact that his father was a provost marshal and as he writes in his book "Until 1958 I had not even noticed our lemming syndrome. Then , as a result of a series of chance conversations, I realized that most people really thought World War Three could happen......It was said that from a major modern conflict no victor may emerge but the idea of being among the survivors appealed to me enormously....I got down to finding out not so much how to live with the bomb as to how to outlive it...The individual's chance of survival will depend largely on what he does immediately after the particular situation arises.. what preparations materially and psychologically he has made beforehand.
Checking for radiation levels.

He writes that the power of nuclear explosion produced in the 1980s is more than three thousand times that of used against Japan in August 1945. When a nuclear weapon explodes, in about a millionth of a second a temperature is produced of up to 18 million degrees Fahrenheit, comparable to that inside our sun.About half of this is immediately lost in the close vicinity of the explosion as a luminous white fireball appears , expands and begins to rise. from a ten megaton (1 megaton is equivalent to a million tons of TNT) weapon this fireball is up to three and a half miles wide.For up to a minute energy is in the form of radiation, light, heat, sound  and blast is released in all directions.The fireball then ceases to be luminous and begins to cool as its cloud rises many thousands of feet at up to 300 miles an hour. As the cloud billows out into the eventual mushroom shape, it sucks up after it a column of dust from the Earth's surface. This dust is mixed with the residue of the weapon and becomes the radioactive fallout.Light travels at 186,000 miles per second eyes should be averted even behind tinted glass. Due to the focusing action of our eyes, its reflection alone maybe blinding. Blindness after initial few days may return.Heat 1/3rd of the energy of a nuclear weapon is emitted as heat which radiates in straight lines at the velocity of light but has little penetrating power and is weakened by haze or mist. Its range (I) however is greater than that of blast or of initial radiation and it may cause injury or death to those exposed and damage to property by staring fires.refuge should be taken away from windows in fire resistance buildings or behind anything opaque and not readily combustible which may absorb the twenty seconds' flash of heat. Even a piece of wood may serve. the thicker the better.Clothing should be thick, loosely fitting, light in color and of wool or other protein fiber such as silk.Not of cotton, poplin, nylon, rayon, Dacron, terylene, Orlon or similar materials which readily burn or melt. the clothing should leave as little skin surface exposed as possible for the most dangerous effect of burns is shock.the area affected is critical to its intensity.Blast Compressed air at the speed of sound at 750 miles/hour lasting several seconds exerts pressure like wind in its path. The objects such a buildings are pushed over and damaged.Blast may enter buildings and push away the roof and walls as if an explosion occurred inside it. injuries from falling debris, fires, electric cables and shock may occur. Ruptured gas mains,chemical explosions and burns may occur. If on a road find shelter underneath a solid structure.If a gas mask is available it should be donned or face covered and shielded away from blast if possible,. The most suitable buildings are concrete or re-in-forced steel structures.Inside a building ceiling is likely to give way in its center so hide at where the ceiling joists enter the wall. Mr Popkess writes that doors and windows should be left open so that air pressure inside may equal that outside but alternatively they may be left shut as precaution against starting and spreading fires.heat will arrive before the blast . One minute is likely to be elapsed The decision depends on the person making it.A purpose built shelter is ideal with the supplies of goggles,helmets, suits& other supports readily available and in place.
It has been observed from the massive earthquake disaster in Pakistan in 2008 that due to almost zero preparedness for natural disasters the most deaths occurred due to being  buried in damaged buildings and structures with no rescue help available. There is a need to heavily invest and update rescue personnel and teams and facilities for nuclear disaster preparedness.Shelters for such hazards need to be built by the governments near all such nuclear facilities to evacuate and shift the vulnerable populations and in larger cities and towns. Preparedness drills and activity should be periodically done with populations and especially with school children.In Pakistan National Disaster Management Authority should take the lead role in planning, mitigation and preparedness.We all should learn from the Japanese catastrophe and fast.