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The Indo-Pak orange line four years later

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Almost exactly four years ago, in September 2011, the border between India and Pakistan was photographed by an astronaut on the International Space Station. It showed the border as a long orange line, one of the few international borders that can be seen from low earth orbit.

On 23 September 2015 the space agency NASA released a new picture. The line is as long and orange as it was, perhaps more fortified now. The cities visible on both sides of the very well lit frontier are more populous, and certainly emit more light in 2015 than they did in 2011.

An astronaut aboard the International Space Station took this nighttime panorama while looking north across Pakistan’s Indus River valley. The right half of the picture is occupied by the western districts of Rajasthan. Image: NASA

An astronaut aboard the International Space Station took this nighttime panorama while looking north across Pakistan’s Indus River valley. The right half of the picture is occupied by the western districts of Rajasthan. Image: NASA

I have added names to the clusters of bright lights seen in the new photograph. In western Rajasthan, Jodhpur, Barmer, Bikaner and Jaisalmer are all visible. In southern Pakistan, Karachi and Hyderabad are easily made out. The media has used the new photographs too, as you can see here, here, here and here.

A high resolution image is available here from Nasa’s Earth Observatory website. Another night image shows the border zone looking south-east from the Himalaya. An older daytime view shows the vegetated bends of the Indus Valley winding through the otherwise desert landscape.

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Written by makanaka

October 7, 2015 at 10:12

Pakistan, India and people’s responsibility

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Relief work in the districts of Jaffarabad and Nasirabad in Balochistan. Photo: UNOCHA

Relief work in the districts of Jaffarabad and Nasirabad in Balochistan. Photo: UNOCHA

For a month the government of India, aided by its media and propaganda units (urban-centric English language dailies and magazines, and a dangerously partisan group of television channels) has bombarded the Indian public with its view of Pakistan.

This is a view that is full of threat and anger. There is in no communication of the government of India (not from the office of the prime minister of India, not from the cabinet, not from Parliament, not from its major ministries which share concerns, such as water and food, and not from its paid servants, a wastrel gaggle of self-important think-tanks) that says, in effect, yes we understand the troubles your peoples have, for we have the same, and let us find ways to aid one another.

There is plenty of reason to do so.

Let us look first at floods and natural disasters, which India has a great deal of experience in dealing with, both through those government agencies that possess an iota of integrity and through voluntary groups and NGOs. Hundreds of thousands of people displaced by September monsoon flooding in Pakistan have not yet moved back into their homes, according to aid groups. Three of Pakistan’s four provinces were hit, affecting over 4.8 million people and damaging over 630,000 houses, according to the latest situation report by the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA).

Humanitarian Snapshot Pakistan - Complex Emergency and Floods 2012 (as of 18 December 2012). The 2012 monsoon floods affected 4.8 million people, according to the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA). Western Balochistan, southern Punjab and northern Sindh provinces were the worst affected. As of 18 December, more than 774,594 people remain displaced in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa due to a complex emergency that has affected region since 2008. Moreover, 1.7 million refugees require assistance as do many of the 1.3 million people who returned to FATA since 2010. Source: UNOCHA

Humanitarian Snapshot Pakistan – Complex Emergency and Floods 2012 (as of 18 December 2012). The 2012 monsoon floods affected 4.8 million people, according to the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA). Western Balochistan, southern Punjab and northern Sindh provinces were the worst affected. As of 18 December, more than 774,594 people remain displaced in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa due to a complex emergency that has affected region since 2008. Moreover, 1.7 million refugees require assistance as do many of the 1.3 million people who returned to FATA since 2010. Source: UNOCHA

Three months after the floods, 97 percent of those displaced have returned to their towns and villages. Nearly all of them, however, continue to live in makeshift shelters next to damaged homes. Aid groups and government officials say they still need critical assistance to help them through the winter. In the absence of adequate shelter and provisions, aid workers say, the cold weather in flood-hit areas is likely to put the affected population under more stress. [You can download a full-sized version of the Humanitarian Snapshot map above, from here (png, 1.8MB).]

Next is the matter of population, economic support for a growing population and sustainable alternatives to the ‘growth is best’ nonsense that South Asian ruling cliques foster with the help of their industrialist compradors. Internal pressures in the country with the world’s sixth largest population are likely to get worse before they get better: At 2.03 percent Pakistan has the highest population growth rate in South Asia, and its total fertility rate, or the number of children born per woman, is also the highest in the region, at 3.5 percent. By 2030, the government projects that Pakistan’s population will exceed 242 million.

“The failure to adequately manage demographic growth puts further pressure on the current population, who already lack widespread basic services and social development,” said the IRIN analysis. Pakistan’s health and education infrastructures are poorly funded, and experts have questioned the quality of what is being provided with existing budgets. With a weak economy and low growth, food insecurity and unemployment present further challenges. “The problem is that if you have a population that is illiterate and does not have proper training, a large segment cannot participate meaningfully in the economy,” IRIN quoted economist Shahid Kardar, a former governor of the State Bank of Pakistan, as having said.

A polio worker on the outskirts of Peshawar in Pakistan delivers vaccine drops, but many workers are now too scared to go into the field. Photo: IRIN, Tariq Saeed

A polio worker on the outskirts of Peshawar in Pakistan delivers vaccine drops, but many workers are now too scared to go into the field. Photo: IRIN, Tariq Saeed

And then there is the very worrisome aspect of violence, against the poor and vulnerable as much as against women. I find it a macabre coincidence that during the weeks when polio workers in Pakistan were being shot at and killed, women in various parts of India were being gang-raped and murdered.

Over the past few weeks there has been an upsurge in attacks on aid workers in Pakistan, many of them linked to a national polio eradication campaign in one of the world’s last three countries where the disease remains endemic. In December 2012 the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO) suspended their anti-polio vaccination campaign after nine workers were killed in attacks in Karachi and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.

Polio workers, including those working for the UN, were also targeted earlier in 2012. Beyond the polio campaign, aid workers in general are starting to feel more hostility to their work. In an attack on 5 January, two aid workers with Al-Khidmat Foundation, an NGO working in education, were shot dead in the northwestern city of Charsadda. There was similarly no warning when gunmen killed seven aid workers with local NGO Support With Working Solution (SWWS) in the Swabi District of Pakistan’s Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Province on 1 January.

And still the same old tiresome drums continued to beat, as they still do, Look at the reactions from India (and the jingoistic treatment given them by a rabid media):

India Today – “Military encounter on the LoC last week is threatening to erode the hard-fought gains in relaxing trade and visa regimes by India and Pakistan in recent times. The rhetoric is shrill in India, which claims it has been grievously wronged.”

Economic Times“India has ruled out high-level talks with Pakistan to de-escalate hostilities and normalise bilateral relations, people familiar with the situation said. The position is in line with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s statement…”

Times of India“India will maintain a tough outlook on Pakistan even as the LoC quietened after a fortnight of bruising skirmishes. At a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) on Thursday, it was agreed that India would not respond immediately…”

BBC“India’s foreign minister says he will “not rush” into talks with his Pakistani counterpart to defuse military tensions in Kashmir. Salman Khurshid’s remarks came after Hina Rabbani Khar’s call for a dialogue between the two ministers.”

DNA“India’s army chief threatened to retaliate against Pakistan for the killing of two soldiers in fighting near the border of the disputed region of Kashmir, saying he had asked his commanders there to be aggressive in the face of provocation.”

Lost altogether in this teeth-gnashing mêlée of trouble-making are the efforts made by Pakistani and Indian people, such as the India Pakistan Soldiers Initiative (IPSI) for peace when they met at the Pakistan Red Crescent Society offices in Pakistan. Peace between the peoples of Pakistan and India that has nothing to do with the red-eyed posturing over the Line of Control and over Jammu and Kashmir will be our own responsibility.

Floods in Pakistan displace 5.4 million

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A man carries a child through the flood waters in Digri, Sindh province. Southern Pakistan has been struck by severe monsoon floods 12 months after last year's devastating flood emergency that affected most of the country. Photo: IRIN / UNICEF Warrick Page

Torrential monsoon rains have triggered severe flooding in Pakistan, primarily in Sindh Province, Reliefweb has reported. Before the monsoon season began, forecasts predicted 10% below normal rains for Sindh and the southern parts of the country for the 2011 monsoon season. However, by 10 August, heavy rains began affecting districts of southern Sindh and extended to the northern regions of the province and adjoining areas of south Punjab and north-eastern Balochistan. While this spell lasted till mid-August, another more debilitating and sustained rain spell heavily affected areas across the entire Sindh Province from the end of August until 14 September. Concurrent impact in adjoining vast areas of Balochistan has resulted in serious humanitarian consequences including in South Punjab. In Sindh, the central and southern districts have been the worst affected.

These rains caused widespread breaches in the agricultural and saline water canals, particularly in the Left Bank Outfall Drain, which exacerbated flood impact in Badin, Mirpurkhas and Tharparkar districts, among others. Continued rains have seriously impeded delivery of emergency services and flood impacted mitigation works. Outflow of the draining flood water is compromised due to poor infrastructure and lack of maintenance of the drainage routes. Some parts of Karachi and Hyderabad have also experienced urban flooding. Flood waters are likely to stagnate in most of the affected regions for the foreseeable future.

As the monsoon season continues, the impact upon the population is intensifying with 5.4 million people affected to date. In Sindh, in particular, the concentration is most severe and all 23 districts have been affected to some degree. It is expected that the population will continue to be uprooted from their homes to seek refuge in the short term as more areas are affected. While some are housed in Government appointed shelters, more seek higher ground along bunds and roads. In Balochistan, five districts are affected and notified (considered seriously affected by the national authorities).The Government of Pakistan, through the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) and utilising the Armed Forces’ logistical capacity, has taken the lead in responding to the disaster with the deployment of rescue and life-saving relief operations.

IRIN News has reported that heavy monsoon rain in southern Pakistan is in many ways hitting children worst of all, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, which says five million people are affected. The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) says children are among the most vulnerable in the kind of situation that prevails now in Sindh Province: “Up to 2.5 million children have been affected by severe monsoon floods in southern Pakistan – and with many still recovering from the worst floods in the country’s history just a year ago, UNICEF says more help must reach them fast before the situation worsens.”

Media in Pakistan quoted disaster management authorities in Sindh as saying at least 270 people have been killed in the province’s 23 districts. The provincial government, which has called on international agencies to help, says 1.2 million homes have been washed away, while the aid agency Oxfam has reported that more than 4.2 million acres of land (1,699,680 hectares) has been flooded and 1.59 million acres (643,450 hectares) of standing crops destroyed in Sindh. It also warned the “situation could worsen” over the coming days.

“The nature of this disaster in some ways poses challenges that are more complex than those of 2010,” Kristen Elsby, a spokesperson for UNICEF, told IRIN from Islamabad. She said the main factor in this was that displaced populations were scattered, with many based along roadsides. “We did not know where to go when the rains swept in, took away our goats and destroyed the vegetable crop we had cultivated,” said Azrah Bibi from Badin District. She and her extended family of eight are currently camped along a roadside near the town of Badin. “We saw some people here and joined them. Some people delivered one lot of food, but there has been very little since, and it is hard to cook anyway since we have no facilities other than a fire from bits of timber and scrap,” she said.

Once again, people living in Sindh and nearby provinces have been hit by floods and forced to flee the waters. Photo: IRIN / Abdul Majeed Goraya

“Children, in particular, need access to clean water and also sanitation to prevent illness from breaking out.” Like many others affected by this year’s flood, Azrah Bibi and her husband, Gulab Din, 45, were also affected by the floods of 2010, widely rated as the worst in the country’s history, which partially damaged their home and also their rice crop. “This year things seem equally bad to me. The wrath of Allah has hit us twice,” she said.

Another IRIN report has said that Sindh is facing disaster once more with heavy rains over the past five days, according to the Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA). “Two million people in 15 [out of 23] districts have been affected,” PDMA Director of Operations Sajjad Haider told IRIN. He also said crops had been devastated. Eighty-five people are reported to have died and provincial authorities have announced disaster relief measures, including compensation packages for victims. Haider said crops had been devastated.

“My sugarcane crop, which was ready for harvesting, has been lost. I am still recovering from last year’s losses of crops and livestock. Who knows what will happen now,” said Majeed-ud-Din, 40, from his village in Khairpur, one of the worst-hit districts. In the remote Kohistan District of Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa Province (KP) flash floods triggered by heavy rain last week are now confirmed by District Coordination Officer Syed Imtiaz Ali Shah as having killed at least 33 people. Media reports put the death toll at almost double that figure, with dozens of houses including an entire village swept away by torrents pouring down hillsides.

[See the earlier post, ‘Pakistan floods six months later’]

The UN Rapid Response Plan has said that in Sindh, of the approximately 5.44 million people affected, 49% are women. The number of deaths has increased to 223, of which 60 are women and 37 are children. To date, 665,821 family homes have been damaged or destroyed. Nearly 297,041 people (77,175 women, 139,661 children) are currently living in 2,150 relief sites.

The situation of the people who have been forced to leave their homes is dire, and there is clear evidence of growing humanitarian needs. People have sought refuge on higher ground, along roadsides and on bunds, while others are housed in public shelters. Access to safe drinking water is compromised, although health services are reaching out. Due to damaged infrastructure, however, it is difficult for the population to access existing services and efforts to avoid a major disease outbreak must continue. With an increasing number of people uprooted as a consequence of the situation, ensuring emergency shelter and food for the population is critical.

Across both provinces, Sindh and Balochistan, there has been a significant impact on people’s lives, especially related to the loss of livelihoods, most predominantly those related to agricultural activities. The UN Rapid Response Plan has said that approximately 80% of Sindh’s rural population’s livelihood is dependent upon agricultural activities, such as crops, livestock, fisheries and forestry. According to preliminary information from NDMA, 1.6 million acres of crop area have been destroyed by the floods, and pre-harvest crop losses include rice, vegetables, cotton, and sugarcane. The survival and health of animals in flood-affected areas are at risk due to loss of fodder reserves and animal feeds. These combined effects are likely to severely affect the availability of and access to adequate food for a large proportion of the affected population over the coming months.

The floodwaters have devastated towns and villages, washed away access routes, downed power and communications lines, and inflicted major damage to buildings. Many key roads and major bridges are damaged or destroyed. The prevailing socio-economic conditions along with flood have exacerbated the living conditions of women, men, boys and girls residing in the flood-affected districts. Additionally, female and children are not always able to access basic services or humanitarian aid. Vulnerable people in general are potentially experiencing a higher risk of disease, in addition to the challenges of limited access and mobility.

Pakistan Indus flood relief: Himal Southasian

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The excellent Himal Southasian magazine is maintaining a packed page full of information about relief, ways to contribute money and services, maps and data, contact emails and phone numbers of people coordinating relief work in Pakistan, names and contact data of agencies doing relief work.

Himal Southasian magazineThe Indus Flood Relief – Fund Collection Drive is being organised by Himal Southasian, South Asia Alliance for Poverty Eradication (SAAPE) and NGO Federation of Nepal. This is a fund opened in Kathmandu for those all over Southasia and elsewhere seeking to support the immediate, ongoing relief efforts in Pakistan. Himal asks you to please use this facility to send money to the victims of flood along the Indus. The recipient organisation is The Institute for Social Movements-Pakistan (ISM PAK) in Hyderabad (Sindh), working with the Orangi Pilot Project (OPP) on emergency response and support. ISM PAK and OPP urgently need funds for rations, medicine, shelters, drinking water, infant diet support, livestock fodder and vaccination, hygiene kits, makeshift toilets and schooling camps.

The Himal page provides detail such as: “”The Sindh government has decided to move displaced people from Jacobabad to Karachi, Hyderabad and Jamshoro. The City District Government Karachi (local government) has identified four locations in Karachi where the displaced families will be brought in: Gaddap, Bin Qasim Town, Keamari, Toll Plaza. Kashmore and Dadu are the worst effected districts. In Kashmore, 50000 people are either on Bunds or in camps. Around 150000 people have been moved to Sukkur, Khairpur, Karachi, Hyderabad and Sibi (Balochistan).”

There are also daily updated lists of what’s needed where – clothing, utensils, toiletries, food, medicines – and who’s doing what – the Provincial Disaster Management Authority (Pakistan government), the Orangi Pilot Project (OPP) and The institute for Social Movements, Pakistan (ISM-Pak).