Over 400 dead in Karachi and yet we have no plan of action

Published: June 23, 2015
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The Sindh government called in Rangers officials to help set-up heatstroke relief camps across Karachi. But why was that needed? Why was a provincial government in need of help in the first place, and that too from a law-enforcement agency? PHOTO: AFP

The Sindh government called in Rangers officials to help set-up heatstroke relief camps across Karachi. But why was that needed? Why was a provincial government in need of help in the first place, and that too from a law-enforcement agency? PHOTO: AFP Perhaps the worst part is that this news, about the Karachi heat wave, will die down as soon as it starts to rain in the city. PHOTO: INP

More than 400 people have died in Karachi since yesterday, due to the deadly heat wave that has laid siege over the city. That’s more than 400 homes struck by tragedy for no apparent reason. That’s more than 400 lives simply wasted away because the local government had no system in place for such a calamity.

But then again, when was the last time that we had a system in place for anything?

Even in this recent tragedy, chaos ensued. Even hospitals around the city were not equipped to handle the commotion. Jinnah Hospital ran out of ORS and clean drinking water because of the influx of patients. Emergency wards were filled with people and medical staffers fell short of the desired number of attendants.

Lack of a proper system has been our go-to answer for eons. Be it the APS attack (141 dead), the Thar famine (66 dead – just in January, 2015), the Kashmiri floods (205 dead), the Ismaili bus attack (43 dead) or the rains in Peshawar (35 dead); be it a man-made or natural catastrophe, we have never had a solid system in place to help us navigate.

The Sindh government called in Rangers officials to help set-up heatstroke relief camps across Karachi. But why was that needed? Why was a provincial government in need of help in the first place, and that too from a law-enforcement agency? We pay our taxes to the government, not the Rangers officials. So where has all the money gone?

This lack of a system has cost us close to 900 lives in just the past eight months.

Yet we do not change our ways.

We keep polluting – we pollute our environment, our offices, our ranks, our duties. We pollute with trash, with hate, with corruption and sloth. And by the end of the day, we just count the numbers – after which we thank God we weren’t part of that death toll.

And then we carry on.

Perhaps the worst part is that this news, about the Karachi heat wave, will die down as soon as it starts to rain in the city. In fact, as I write this, people have already started rejoicing at the news of rain in some distant parts of Karachi.

So what if more than 400 people died? At least it’s raining.

My question is, will we see the same resolve of making sure such an incident does not happen again as we did after the APS attack, in the form of a National Action Plan?

While people may argue that the NAP has its flaws and it has not been properly implemented, there is at least a plan in place; people have some idea about what to do. Do we have a NAP for disaster relief as well? Do we have a policy which sets out the modus operandi for a future calamity of this nature?

No, we don’t.

And is anyone talking about it?

No, not yet.

And herein lies the problem.

The swiftness with which the NAP was drafted was uncanny of the Pakistan government. Perhaps because the people whose children were attacked belonged to the status quo in this country? Anyway, to expect the same speedy decision-making in this regard is clearly delusional.

The fact that the Sindh government was willing to ‘gift’ away 9,000 acres of forest land in the Shikarpur district to the heirs of martyred soldiers from the Pakistan Army goes to show that environmental concerns are not their priority. Keeping aside the environmental concerns, the basic question is who has given the provincial government the right to give away such a huge amount of precious land? The government doesn’t own it, the people do.

Pakistan already has just 2.1% of forest lands in its borders, which is grossly below the required amount of at least 25%. The people sitting in the provincial assembly are so incapable of common sense that they will simply give away 9,000 acres of forest land without once thinking about the adverse-affect it will have on Pakistan’s environment. From affecting climate change, to maintaining the proportion of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to helping avert floods, forests are crucial to any country’s sustenance.

Can you still not see the effects of deforestation in the form of this heat wave? What more has to happen before you understand that deforestation will lead to more havoc than imaginable?

Surely, it shouldn’t take a novice like me to point all that out to our government?

The government should pay heed to the people. Many are speaking out on social media and many have given short-term as well as long-term solutions.

Photo: Screenshot

Alongside this, people need to be more pragmatic and understand that natural disasters have little to do with ones sins and more to do with bad management and general scientific rules. This is global warming, in the flesh.

We, as citizens of Karachi, need to hold this government accountable and not resort to simply praying for rain or praying for the dead. While prayers are important, tangible change can only occur once we pursue matters and take steps that ensure our safety in the future.

Over 400 people have died. Let them not die in vain.

Faiq Lodhi

Faiq Lodhi

A journalism grad and news-buff, his interests include current affairs, arts, literature and social work. He tweets as @FaiqLodhi (twitter.com/FaiqLodhi)

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