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Life still at standstill after two disasters

Placing the pitchers on ground and mopping the sweat from her cheek with dupatta, she lamented that most of their time is consumed in bringing drinking water for their families.

This is not the story of a single village, but of the whole Chitral district where flash floods and earthquake wreaked havoc recently. The district saw devastation of the physical infrastructure of roads, suspension bridges, drinking water supply schemes, irrigation channels and buildings of schools and hospitals, first by torrential rains starting from July 16 and then by Oct 26 earthquake.

No work for restoration of the infrastructure has started as yet, while not a single bridge, swept away by floods, has been restored for traffic. However, a number of small roads were opened by the local people on self-help basis. Over 30 schools were destroyed by floods, while another 130 school buildings hit by the earthquake have been reported unfit for use. Similarly, 13 buildings of basic health units in the villages were damaged by the quake and six by floods.

Data gathered by the communication and works department reveals that over 50 per cent of the government buildings have either been damaged partially or extensively as a result of Oct 26 earthquake, which included schools, colleges, hospitals and food department warehouses of wheat that has directly affected the people. The flash floods also wiped out the hydropower station of Reshun which had the generation capacity of 4.2 megawatt and was feeding Mastuj tehsil. The powerhouse was owned by the energy department of the province and its destruction and closure had badly affected people of the area.

However, no step has been taken for its restoration though its power channel is intact. Though Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, accompanied by Chief Minister Pervez Khattak, had rushed to the area on both the occasions and announced to restore the facilities within few months, but only Rs100 million was allocated which were spent on the restoration of only three major roads, including Chitral-Booni road, Chitral-Garam Chashma road and Bumburate road. Not a single bridge swept away by floods has been restored till date for want of funds. An official requesting anonymity told this correspondent that the files submitted by different public works departments were still pending either in the finance department or with the Provincial Disaster Management Authority whose officers did not care for the sufferings of people in Chitral.

District nazim Maghfirat Shah criticised the provincial government for wasting time as the construction season in Chitral had almost come to an end due to the advent of winter. He alleged that the government was not interested in solving the problems created by the natural disasters that hit the district one after the other. “Those in the government have no vision to look into the peculiar geography of Chitral district where no construction work is possible in winter i.e. from November to March,” he said.

Mr Shah also alleged that the government had weakened the position of local bodies’ representatives by limiting their powers. He reiterated that a big sum of money was required for restoration of facilities of communication, health, education, drinking water and irrigation. He said that the piecemeal allocations would not serve the purpose. Deputy commissioner Osama Ahmed said recently the government had released Rs150 million to the Public Health Engineering Department, Rs146 million to irrigation department and Rs200 million to the communication and works department to restore facilities affected by the floods.

He said that the municipal administrations of Chitral and Mastuj tehsils had also been provided with funds for the purpose. However, the people of Chitral now have to wait till the spring season starting from April when construction work can be started to restore the flood- and quake-hit facilities.–Publihsed in Dawn

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