Need of allocating funds for monsoon preventive strategy

August 3, 2014 Off By Web Desk

Karachi: The shocking beach drowning deaths in Karachi on the occasion of Eid have stressed the need of better preventive strategy especially during monsoon season, says an expert.

Director of Pakistan Life Saving Foundation (PALS) Syed Mohammad Ahsan told PPI that Karachi beach tragedy is outcome of city administration’s failure to implement the precautionary measures. He said that Pakistan is one of the few countries, which till now don’t have professional life-guard services in place.

The unfortunate incident of Karachi beach occurred during the Eid celebrations when a large number of people rushed towards Karachi beaches. The monsoon high tides washed away more than three dozen people.

More than 38 dead bodies of hapless picnickers were recovered, while some believe that still there could be some more missing people. The city administration with support of Pakistan Navy recovered 19 bodies from the Clifton beach alone and rest from Hawksbay and Sandspit.

In 2004 Pakistan Life Saving Foundation (PALS), an NGO, was established and later formally associated with New Zealand Association to provide a comprehensive life saving infrastructure. “It was time, when the rate of unintentional death by drowning was much higher than today. The beaches were almost unguarded”, said Ahsan.

Commissioner Karachi Shoaib Siddiqui was of the opinion that the section 144 had already been imposed in the city which prohibits the gathering of more than four persons at a place. However, in response to a question, he acknowledged that in certain celebratory occasions restraining a massive crowd is a difficult task.

Contrary to it, the residents questioned the role of city administration and rejected the claims of precautionary measures by authorities.

Sources said that there were 70 vacancies for the life-guard in the city municipal offices but none of them was filled despite of monsoon season.

According to the statistical reports of World Health Organization (WHO), Asia has the highest drowning rate than rest of the world. It further concludes that death from drowning is found in all economies and regions, however low and middle income countries account for 95% of unintentional drowning deaths. On the contrary, the lowest death-drowning rate is of North America and other European states which implement several drowning-prevention strategies.

Unfortunately, Pakistan mostly rely on Search & Rescue (SAR or S&R) operations which are primarily resultant proceedings of any tragic incident and are conducted to retrieve persons in distress. However, globally precautionary measures are considered to be more effective to prevent human-life loss, and associated disasters.

Australia is another country with lowest drowning death rate. The Australian Royal Life Safety Society conducts several surveys and collects data which facilitate them to make prevention strategies.

A senior police official said that a ban on swimming in the sea was already implemented before the monsoon season in June. Contrary to it, the relatives of drowned persons claimed that they did not spot a single life-guard before the tragic incident occurred.

Including many Asian countries, Pakistan – too — lacks in all major prevention techniques to control the drowning rate which includes prioritization of research and surveys, engineering methods which help to remove the hazard, legislation to enforce prevention, training of life-guards and furnishing them with latest technology and equipments.

Pakistan Maritime Academy, established in 1968, is the lone academy in Karachi which offers general rescue courses but again it is not associated with civil policymaking and enforcing prevention strategies.

When Ahsan was enquired about the life-guards of PALS at Clifton beach, he said that the Clifton beach comes under the jurisdiction of city administration where they manage each and everything from spotlights to the fares of vehicle parking.

Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) faces the fund crush time to time. Earlier this year, many of KMC staff held protest at Karachi Press Club over outstanding salaries and stopped to work which paralyzed more than half city as the heap of garbage made difficult for dwellers to pass by.

For last several years, Pakistan has been struggling to make a place in International Maritime Organization (IMO) — the United Nations specialized agency with responsibility for the safety and security of shipping and the prevention of marine pollution by ships — council but each time Pakistan had suffered a major setback due to lack of implementing several international based strategies for preventing water pollution.

In August 2012, The Guardians – a UK based newspaper – published an article that Pakistan is nowhere near prepared for another major disaster. The article was based on a research study commissioned by the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC), a group of UK NGOs. It claimed the measures introduced by the Pakistan government to reduce the risk and impact of disasters may look good on paper, but the reality is markedly different.

According to many experts, Pakistan has yet to progress in field of surveys and research. Lack of funds provision to concerned departments and lack of prioritization for making prevention strategies are the major factors behind such tragic incidents.

Syed Mohammad Ahsan urged that if government takes us on board, a better strategy can be surfaced which may decline the drowning incidents.

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