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Disaster preparedness for natural hazards: current status in Pakistan

This book provides an overview of the current status of disaster preparedness planning in Pakistan. It discusses the documents, plans and legal instruments in place and the institutions governing the implementation of disaster preparedness. Although Pakistan faces a number of natural disasters, the book focuses specifically floods, earthquakes, and landslides. 

The authors argue that disasters caused by natural hazards have played a major hindrance in economic development and poverty reduction in South Asia, especially in Pakistan. On the one hand, Pakistan has one of the highest growth rates, resulting in its being the third fastest growing population in the world, and this is resulting in urban as well as rural expansion in hazard-prone areas. On the other hand, Pakistan has a geographic and physiographic location that presents risks for natural disasters of the highest possible order.

The paper highlights major shortcomings in Pakistan’s disaster preparedness including:

  • lack of documented preparedness plans clearly outlining responsibilities, coordination, and standard operating procedures
  • minimal community involvement
  • lack of plans and measures for long-term rehabilitation
  • sole dependence on the Pakistan Army, especially for search and rescue
  • Pakistan’s concept of preparedness for natural disasters has remained restricted to relief. There is no institution in the country for mitigation, preparedness, response and rehabilitation.

The following recommendations are made to streamline disaster preparedness in Pakistan:

  • a dedicated institution is needed to address the issues related to disaster management
  • mitigation efforts should be separated from disaster response
  • Disaster Preparedness Plans (DPP) should be rehearsed (drills) and should be
    constantly reviewed
  • DPPs should include a comprehensive outline for coordination between all the relevant agencies and for communication with vulnerable communities
  • the future DPPs must evolve by gradually shifting disaster response, recovery and rehabilitation responsibilities from the army to the civilian government, from the civilian government to local governments, and, finally, from local governments to the communities themselves
  • Pakistan needs a comprehensive emergency force, comprised of volunteers from every strata of society, and trained and well-versed in all disaster situations with the capability and resources for effective mobilisation
  • the public needs to be made aware of natural hazards and disaster management
  • research into disaster management that adapts to the cultural, geographic, and social system is the key to success