MUZAFFARABAD: While October 2015 marks the 10th anniversary of the devastation brought about by the earthquake, the dilapidated infrastructure continues to mock the government’s tall claims which previously envisaged the restoration of all aspects of life to their full bloom.
The earth quivered, buildings rattled, ear-piercing cries of people reverberated through the air as the never-witnessed-before earthquake measuring 7.6 on the Richter scale struck Muzaffarabad, Balakot, and other parts of Azad Kashmir and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The deadly earthquake is still a nightmare for not only the victims but also for the people from Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan.
Thousands of schools, which were once swamped by children; clad in uniforms, now depict the sorry state of affairs and the snail-paced government efforts attempting to reconstruct them.
According to a recently released report by an NGO, working in education sector, Alif Ailan, 5,742 schools were destroyed in total; 2,747 in Azad Kashmir and 2,995 in KPK.
“Only 1,244 schools were reconstructed in Azad Kashmir and 2,256 in KPK,” regretted Dr Jawwad, a member of Alif Ailan while Talking to News Lens Pakistan.
He said that despite a 10 year lapse, the reconstruction of 1,503 schools in AJK and 739 in KPK was still underway. “The rebuilding of 794 schools in AJK and 496 is yet to take place,” he added.
According to official statistics, 18,000 children and 853 teachers were killed by the earthquake.
In 2011, Auditor General of Pakistan had released a report that pointed out serious irregularities in the projects for reconstruction of infrastructure and rehabilitation of people displaced by the 2005 Earthquake.
However, Shazia Harris, the spokesperson for Earthquake Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Authority (ERRA), rejected all claims regarding negligence and mismanagement on the government’s part.
She told News Lens Pakistan that the geographical location of the earthquake-stricken areas and the unfavorable weather conditions, as well as the rough terrain are to blame for the delay in re-construction of the schools.
“Yes, there is a delay and there are 2,000 schools which are yet to be rebuilt, but we and our implementing partner UN Habitat can work for only 5 months, as during the rest of the months all communication links remain severed due to heavy snowfall, land sliding and harsh weather conditions,” she noted.
In relation to the release of funds, the ERRA spokesperson admitted that there were financial constraints which slowed down the rehabilitation efforts. “However, all 3.5 million displaced people are back to their homes, which have been designed by ERRA’s technical staff,” she said.
While the government and non-governmental organizations have their own versions of rehabilitation stories, the most independent and unbiased version comes from Muhammed Nazir Gul, one of the witnesses and survivors of this tragedy.
“Despite a lapse of 10 year, we are still reeling through the horror that has plagued us since the disaster. Makeshift houses, battered infrastructure and heaps of rubble do not allow this tragedy to be erased from our memories,” he told News Lens Pakistan.
Though Gul admitted that rehabilitation work by the government and foreign donors was underway, he was of the view that given the magnitude of the devastation, “petty done and vast undone.”