Capital ill-prepared to mitigate natural, manmade disasters

  • Emergency, disaster management requires training of personnel, billions of rupees to spruce up its emergency preparedness

ISLAMABAD: The Disaster and Emergency Management Directorate of the Metropolitan Corporation Islamabad (MCI), the authority responsible to take precautionary measures, ensure safety regulations and assist in case of natural disasters, suffers from a paucity of funds, outdated fire extinguishing equipment, out of order fire engines and ambulances, Pakistan Today has learnt.

It is pertinent to mention here that in order to rehabilitate the equipment and train the personnel, former CDA chairman Maroof Afzal had sent a summary of one billion rupees for approval back in 2016. However, once again the lack of funds became a hindrance and the issue remained unresolved.

Resultantly, a number of expensive vehicles, designed exclusively for emergencies and fitted with firefighting equipment, for firefighting are gathering. The firefighting accessories, costing about three million rupees, are left to rot in store room without any utility. The recent forest fire on Margalla Hills stands testament to ill-preparedness of the Disaster and Emergency Management Directorate.

The fire could not be put out completely for more than two days dashing empty claims of the authorities to the ground. The fire expanded towards nearby villages and reached near Trail 5 and the Naval Headquarters. On the request of the National Disaster Management Authority, four helicopters from the army and the air force were deputed to stump out fire.

The civic agency and its environmental and disaster and emergency directorates despite trying their best failed to curb the forest fire. Another concern for the citizens are the rise of multi-storey buildings like Centaurus, Safa Mall, Ufone Tower, the Islamabad Stock Exchange and many others in and around Islamabad, the need for an active, vigilant and well-prepared firefighting mechanism has increased manifold.

The city managers had been paying no heed to the warning of the Emergency and Disaster Management Directorate (E&DM) of the MCI. The directorate has marked 257 commercial and 148 industrial buildings as dangerous and not emergency ready till to date.

The civic agency warned the building owners several times and informed that if necessary action would not be taken by the owners then CDA reserves the right and power to put penalties like sealing the premises or heavy fines or both.

Currently, the Capital Development Authority (CDA) and the Metropolitan Corporation are just passing the buck to each other and the official concerned are just restricted with the issuance of notices and the owners of these private high-rise buildings are not taking these warning letters seriously.

“We’ve recently been given funds of 10 million rupees and they are sufficient to keep our operations running. The situation is not as dire as is perceived. We have 40 emergency vehicles and all are operational. We’ll keep things afloat till passing of the budget,” said Zafar Iqbal, director of the Emergency and Disaster Management.