Saturday, October 8, 2016

Unfinished agenda: AJK still requires Rs40 billion to complete reconstruction

Over a decade after the massive earthquake that devastated Azad Jammu and Kashmir, the apathetic attitude and lack of interest from the government, foreign donors and the public at large has seen funds for reconstruction of the valley dry up and work crawl almost to a standstill. “Severe financial crisis since 2010 has virtually paralysed the reconstruction programme in the earthquake-hit areas,” State Earthquake Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Agency (SERRA) Secretary, Muhammad Zaffar Khan, said recently.
He stated that they had yet to complete 32 per cent of the reconstruction work in the valley.
The 7.6 magnitude earthquake had struck at 8:52 am on the morning of October 8, 2005. Muzaffarabad, the AJK capital, was ground-zero. When the earth stopped shaking, the city and the entire region to Balakot was left virtually unrecognizable with over 87,350 people dead and thousands injured.
When the reconstruction work began in AJK, the government had identified as many as 7,836 projects with a total financial portfolio of Rs207.6 billion to rebuild earthquake-hit areas in AJK.
But 11 years down the line, over Rs144.65 billion have been spent on 5,329 projects with as many as 2,507 projects yet to be completed.
“ We completed 68 per cent of [reconstruction] work in the earthquake-hit areas of Muzaffarabad, Bagh and Rawalakot during the last 11 years with the financial assistance of Government of Pakistan (GoP) and foreign donors,” Khan said. He added that around 1,595 projects are under construction.
“The education sector was our prime target for building infrastructure and facilities. Some 1,331 buildings have been completed while 787 are under construction,” the SERRA secretary said.
“We are quite concerned about delay in [construction of] earthquake-hit schools, which are close to 1,200, and more than 40,000 students are studying under the open sky during the harsh winters and summers.”
“In the 2016-17 fiscal year SERRA received only two per cent budget from the government of Pakistan,” the official lamented adding that the paucity of funds means 912 projects in the earthquake-hit areas have not yet even started.
Asked what they required to complete the remaining projects, Khan said an immediate release of Rs39 billion would allow them to complete all remaining projects by 2019.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 8th, 2016.
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