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Such natural eventualities are always unpredictable

By AMANULLAH BASHAR
June 04 - 10, 2001

Thanks God! The formidable cyclone again subsided before hitting the coastal areas of Pakistan, especially Karachi having the most vulnerable civic infrastructure to sustain the vagaries of the storm.

Nature is really kind to Pakistan. Remember horrible devastation in Indian Gujrat caused by "Bhookam" earthquake recently. The intensity of the earthquake recorded in Pakistan more or less was the same as it was observed in India, yet except a few minor incidents in the interior of Sindh, it passed away safely, without doing any major harm to the property or to the people of Pakistan.

Similarly, the hurricane, which had claimed the large number of death tolls last year in Indian Gujrat and adjacent areas, was initially moving towards the coastal belt of Sindh. It did some damage near Badin in Sindh, yet the stormy winds and tidal waves of the cyclone were diverted towards Indian Gujrat and Runn of Katch before they could hit the coastal belt in Sindh.

In fact, for the last 3-4 years, the warning of the sea storms is becoming an annual feature for Karachi and the areas located in coastal belt of the province of Sindh being fully exposed to the climatically pressures of the monsoon every year.

This year too, the cyclone, which was moving towards Karachi and other parts of Sindh province with a lightening speed of 200 km per hour, was recurved in the middle of its way. After keeping the people in waiting for 3-4 days, the cyclone was recurved towards the Runn of Kutch region on May 25.

Earlier the official quarters in Sindh had taken some precautionary measures and set up a few emergency centers in Karachi and other coastal areas of Sindh. A large number of people living in the coastal areas of Keti Bunder, Badin and Thatta were also removed to safer places, while alert signals were given to ocean going vessels or calling at Karachi port.

PTV

Pakistan Television, which should be the most reliable source of information of the people living in this country, baffled up its viewers while giving information by the sea storm. Instead of directly identifying the areas, which were possibility in the hit range, it used technical language that the cyclone is heading towards North or NorthEast. Does it make the sense to tell the direction of the possible danger in the technical words beyond comprehension not only of the layman but even for the educated ones? The storm was a natural phenomenon and politically motivated.

But our official media is always shy of commenting even on the natural developments whether it is shortage of water due to drought or a possible danger due to sea storm. They are supposed to inform the people whether the storm was heading towards Karachi, Badin or Thatta or any other place so the people of these areas could take precautionary measures, instead of telling that it moving towards north or south.

So far we are lucky in the sense that the natural threats like earthquake or sea storm have not done any serious damage at our land. We pray for the same in future also. But should be prepared to meet such challenges or eventualities God forbid if the worst comes to the worst. Situation demands that we should reactivate the idle Civil Defence Department which instead of doing practical exercises for the cause of civil defence, thoroughly involved in harassing the people by visiting the industrial and commercial units to check whether they have purchased fire-extinguishing equipment or not.

Since we are receiving the threats of the sea storm every year, an exclusive cell well equipped to meet natural eventualities is required to be established in Sindh. It was never came to light that when the Sindh Coastal Development Corporation, yet another public sector entity, is doing for the development of the coastal areas. This corporation should also be put to a good use with the training of its staff to meet the challenges of cyclone, if it ever comes to our coasts. The governments in the past had allocated huge funds for the development of a green belt around the coastal areas of Sindh. It was claimed that the land around the coastal belt is very responsive for cultivation of coconut trees. That promised green belt never emerged on the ground for several decades. If these public sector corporations supposed to develop the coastal areas are unable to show any tangible results; at least they can be put to save the coastal areas.

Since Karachi has not received the monsoon rains for the last 3-4 years, it was a pleasant surprise for the people of Karachi that the city will be receiving heavy downpour accompanied by thunderstorm in the wake of the cyclone. Karachiites were again betrayed by the forecast of the Meteorological Department that Karachi will receive heavy rains within next 24 hours. It never rained. The Met office however succeeded to maintain its legacy.

It is true that the sea storm or earthquake have done no harm to us so far, but it is also true that such natural eventualities are always unpredictable. What would happen if the storm heading towards our coastal areas forgets to recurve towards any other direction and comes to visit us? At least we should have an umbrella to welcome the rainfall even if it comes unintentionally or inadvertently towards our homes.