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Pakistan Needs Organized Disaster Management Lately we have been getting too much negative news from Pakistan. Yes it is really disturbing to any person who loves his country and feels the pain for it but don't you think we keep on adding salt to our wounds or let's say keep on making our miseries even more unbearable by creating an environment where everybody is criticizing the others but nobody is coming up with a solution as to how things ought to be done.

Let's take the example of the current floods.

Horrible is the mildest word to describe these super floods I suppose but what are we doing as a nation to fight it? Everybody is really hard at point scoring and quick on to lodge the blame game but hey if this can solve the problems & misery of the people then lets chip in with everything we have got to take this blame game to the top most level, but unfortunately this won't solve the issues at hand and it hasn't.

So I thought to do my bit, apart from doing what little I could do financially I indulged myself into a thought process (or brainstorming session if we can call it) as to how we can better prepare ourselves to deal with this calamity in the future to come. This might not be the ultimate solution as I, am a software engineer by profession and not a civil engineer but hey it's better to do something at least.

So my model is as follows:

In my view it's much better to use the same things available now rather than reinventing the wheel so I took NDMA (National Disaster Management Authority) as my focal agency for this. This agency will have to be modified into a process driven force which has clear SOPs laid out and everybody knows what do to at the time of need rather than a mob with enthusiasm and will but no proper guidelines and direction. For this, taking the existing structure of NDMA which has a Federal level team and a provincial level team (PDMA) I added one more layer underneath which is the District Disaster Management Authority (DDMA). Following is the responsibility area (if you can call it) for each layer of the agency.

The NDMA will be the basic monitoring authority responsible for channelizing the aid (coming from various domestic & foreign donors) and routing it to the PDMA for each province. This routing will be done on the basis of the damage done in each province by the calamity for example No. of people effected & the size of the area damaged.

The PDMA will take funds from the NDMA and based on the requirements sent by the DDMAs from each district will do the procurement and channelizing of the supplies from the supplier to DDMA. This will range from rescue boats to food supplies which are shipped from foreign donors or the donors who are contributing in a very huge bulk at regular intervals (like World Food Program & UNESCO).

Moreover the PDMA will also designate regional hubs to store the rations & equipment at the time of a disaster from where they can be transported quickly & cheaply towards the affected area. These regional hubs will also act as regional control centers coordinating all the DDMA under their due restrictions.

The DDMA will be the actual work horse at the times of disaster as it will consist of the actual people and volunteers who will perform at actual work on ground, ranging from transporting the people to safer areas to giving them rations for survival.

The DDMA will consist of ideally 100 people who will figure out the damage done in their district based on the no. of people affected. They will also calculate how much food and water is required for their district. This number can be deduced by the following formulae:

Amount of Food required (in kg) = Total Population of District - Mean Number of People Affected) * Average consumption of Food / person per day (in kg)

Total population figure can be acquired from NADRA, Mean number can be an estimated figure keeping maximum number of affected in mind while average consumption of food & water per person in Pakistan can be acquired from World Food Program or Statistics Authority in Pakistan.

All of this data will be uploaded into a central database which will be shared by all three layers of the agency i.e. NDMA, PDMA & DDMA.

At the time of any disaster all the rescue machinery of the government (like Rescue 1122, Doctors, Paramedics) should be given under the command of the head of DDMA (who will in turn report to the Commissioner/ Administrator/ DCO/ Nazim of that area administratively &to his PDMA head for more supplies and equipment).

After the functionality of each layer of the Disaster management authority has been made clear (I suppose ? ) now I will switch my focus towards the working mechanism of the agency as a whole).For this I divide the working of these three layers of the agency into two phases

  1. Pre Disaster Phase
  2. Post Disaster Phase

1) Pre Disaster Phase:

(I, am using the example of floods to put my proposals but with few minor changes it can also be true for earthquakes)

This is the phase which requires more work and discipline in terms of planning. In the pre-disaster phase, the NDMA & PDMA can do a detailed study of the rivers of Pakistan (I guess most of the data will be available from Geological Survey of Pakistan, WAPDA & Irrigation departments). In this detailed survey both NDMA & PDMA should figure out:

  1. Where are the most populous centres alongside the riverbed?

  2. Where are the most suitable places alongside the river bed where the river dikes can be broken in case of a flood? This calculation can be based on the factors such as (a) how much population will be effected by this cut (b) what will be the cost impact on the economy if we make a cut from this place (c) how much water retention capability does the soil has in the given area (like if the area is dry it will soak up more water then let's say a more green and fertile area so it's better to make a cut on dry area as water will disappear much more quickly) .

  3. Where we can relocate the people of the area where the cut was made at the time of flood?

  4. Based on the number of population effected what can be the best mode of transport in terms of cost, resources and time.

  5. What kind of diseases is most likely to break out and what can be the remedy for it

  6. Which areas can be made regional hubs at the time of disaster? This can be decided on the city which is most advanced in terms of infrastructure to handle the logistics and also safe from the calamity on hand (i.e. flood or earthquake).

  7. How many local NGOs are working in the area and what is their area of expertise.

  8. How many doctors and paramedics operate in the area?

  9. What rescue machinery/ department he has on his disposal in case of a disaster (i.e. where Rescue 1122 is not available the rescue departments can be civil defence for example)

  10. One focal person for each DDMA/PDMA is designated & announced and his contact info is given on the website (custom made for NDMA/PDMA/DDMA) so that any NGO or a group of volunteers know in advance who to contact at the time of disaster to render their services.

  11. A database driven website is created only for NDMA/PDMA/DDMA which is available at all times and can host the bank account details (where people & NGOs can directly deposit their money if they want) at the time of disaster. This website at the time of disaster can act as a platform where each DDMA focal person can log in and publish his requirements (food, equipment, need of doctors or paramedics) in real time so that each NGOs and volunteers can donate only the required items to the affected area and do not overcrowd a single area while leaving the other area without anything at all. Internet access using satellite can be given to each DDMA focal person so that he can update the information from anywhere even if the Telecom network is disrupted. He in turn can receive the requirements from his field force using radio equipment. Same can be case for announcing the information locally; if internet is not available DDMA can make announcements (about updated requirements in the website) using radio to inform local NGOs and volunteers about the needs.

  12. All the above mentioned data can be uploaded in a custom made database application so that the PDMA and then the NDMA can have a clear idea, in advance, of how many resources they have on their disposal in case a disaster strikes. This database can also have records/data of previous natural disasters (if possible) so that a clear pattern can be generated that what actions were taken and why? How many were spot on target and worked well and how many backfired, so that they can be avoided in the future.

  13. This is the trickiest part and you guys may not agree with it. NDMA and PDMA after surveying the whole river path (entering into Pakistan and falling into Arabian sea) can also designate 5 10 places where the government can dig artificial lakes within 1 kilometre radius of the riverbed to hold access water from flood. This can have two benefits (i) it can save water for later use (ii) it can also provide more time to people to flee from areas which are most likely to be flooded. These lakes will require money to be dug but if you compare them with the cost of damage done by floods and also the cost of water lost I say it's a great bargain to make. Moreover the manpower can be arranged from the neighbouring areas, if the government can tell them that this is for their own good they will happily participate as they can recall the misery what flood brought to them.

NOTE: NDMA/PDMA can be assisted my multiple government organizations for surveying all the above mentioned information.

2) Post Disaster Phase:

In the Post disaster phase all the three layers of the agency can take benefit from the database (mentioned above) to chalk out a working plan or line of action. At the time of disaster the people who are interested to volunteer (both from within the country and outside the country) can log in the NDMA/PDMA/DDMA website and can see in real time that

  1. How many donations were given, how much is spent already and how much remaining,

  2. How many casualties were suffered and injured encountered,

  3. What supplies are needed to be provided and to which area

  4. How much supplies are required by which area

  5. Where the volunteers can go to render their services (i.e. which District is in most need of volunteers and supplies)

  6. Which bank accounts are available to send the donations directly?

  7. All the NGOs and volunteers should work using the platform of NDMA. PDMA, DDMA as they will be the authority to channelize everything(i.e. DDMA in charge can allocated N number of volunteers to each of his team or give one area block to an NGO with enough capacity to handle the situation on their own, while he monitors their work from his District control room)

If we adopt the above mention approach it will give us huge benefits and also restore the faith of our government in the eyes of the world and above all it will restore the faith of our people in themselves that they can manage the things on their own and can monitor what is being done. Apart from this following are few very important benefits which we can get immediately.

  1. Control of the resources and efforts is now centralized and thus can be managed in a much more organized and efficient manner.
  2. Gives more transparency because everybody can log in the website to see what are the requirements and how much money is received and how much is spent.
  3. Audit can be easy as everybody will know who received the money and who managed it.

I hope my humble effort can bring any good to my country or at least initiate any thought process at any level of our society. If it can achieve this I will consider my efforts as worthwhile.

May Allah give peace and prosperity to our beloved country, Long Live Pakistan. flood earthquake disasters