By Mirza Abdul Aleem Baig

DISASTERS WHETHER natural or man-made play wreckages role with the life of millions of people every year around the globe. Their aftermath is nothing but a harsh picture of destruction, death, and misery. Today it is proven truth that natural disaster can happen at any place irrespective of the developed, developing or the least developed status of a country and it is also experienced that the least developed and developing countries are impacted more severely by large scale natural disasters. It is not always possible to avoid disaster but the sufferings can be reduced by appropriate disaster management through proper disaster management tools. The advancement in Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in the form of GIS, Remote Sensing, Space Technology etc, can help a great deal in planning and implementation of disaster reduction procedures.

Space-based ICT applications are playing an explicit role in providing information, information services and decision support tools for disaster management in developed regions of the globe. Procedures such as continuous information acquisition over a broad geographic area, as well as distribution of information services and applications to remote and less serviced areas, chiefly promote from this technology.

The rapid development of space-based ICT and the integration of remote sensing, Geographic Information System (GIS), and satellite position system, collectively known as 3S technology, have created a solid foundation for effective disaster information and monitoring management in developed world. The 3S technology functions have being extensively utilized in two broad areas of disaster management. The initial deals with uplifting awareness, and includes preparations and planning to decrease vulnerabilities while, among other things, an understanding of the process, modeling, monitoring, early warning systems, forecasting, and hazards risk mapping.

As declared by United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), 24 out of 49 least developed countries, most of which are in Asia and the Pacific, face high levels of disaster risk, therefore, the technology that is enabled by satellites holds great potential to meet significant needs in developing countries. Specially, satellite-based remote sensing, communication and navigation capabilities can provide valuable services in the developing world. Unfortunately, the potential of these technologies is not fully met due to different obstacles that prevent developing countries from making use of such technology. These barriers include lake of access of funding, expertise, infrastructure, equipment and education. According to research done with the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), it has proven that an investment of $1 in ICTs used for disaster management through monitoring and response could save $14-$22 for rehabilitation after the disaster.

In recent years Pakistan has suffered a series of natural disasters, including the 2005 earthquake and floods in 2010 and 2011. These calamities killed thousands of citizen and cost millions by destroying large-scale infrastructure, housing, live-stoke, agriculture and other assets. Since Pakistan is situated on major earthquake fault lines, the likelihood of similar tragedies in the future remains significant. Pakistan still lack in a systematic and organized approach towards managing the effects of natural disasters. However, the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) which is the executive arm of the National Disaster Management Commission (NDMC) headed by Prime Minister, has been assigned the task of coordinating the disaster risk management at the national level, implementing disaster risk management strategies, mapping the hazards, developing guidelines and ensuring the establishment of Emergency Operation Centers (EOCs) at provincial, district and municipal levels.

Despite establishment of this organization assigned with apparently various tasks, disasters in Pakistan are barely managed efficiently. According to the government, a lot of work is under way but, the last budget couldnt allocate significant money for IT or telecommunication sector to build efficient disaster management structure to overcome the natural disasters. Keeping the current ICT infrastructure of the country in mind, especially in the rural areas, such digital rescue operation is a myth, away from reality.

In the light of above facts, it is obvious that Pakistan is in ominous need of an organized disaster management programme to face the emergency situations. Government of Pakistan must reinforce its disaster management policies and build up institutions to not only tackle such situations but also make them best use. It is high time that the government as well as citizen of Pakistan play their own respective role to bring about a positive change!

“A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual doom”. – Martin Luther King Jr.

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