PESHAWAR: Nearly half of the roughly 3,000 schools damaged in Pakistan’s catastrophic earthquake in 2005 have still not been rebuilt, according to official records made available by the Earthquake Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Authority (ERRA).
ERRA was mandated to rebuild 2925 of the schools destroyed.
Of the 2995 schools badly damaged or completely destroyed in the most devastating earthquake in Pakistan’s history, only 1698 or 58 per cent have been rebuilt, ERRA records show.
On October 8, 2005, an earthquake of 7.6 magnitude hit the northern parts of the country including KP and Azad Kashmir.
According to ERRA, more than 80,000 people were killed while about 75,000 people were injured in the calamity. The earthquake displaced about 2.8 million people were displaced as large number of houses, hospitals and schools and other buildings were destroyed.
Responding to the deadly earthquake, Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan’s president at the time, established ERRA to help rebuild and reconstruct the earthquake affected area on urgent basis.
However, rehabilitation and reconstruction had yet to complete after eleven years due to paucity of funds, ERRA officials told News Lens.
“Shortage of funds is why we have fallen behind our target on reconstruction of schools,” said Shazia Haris, Public Relations Officer at ERRA while talking to Truth Tracker.
She said since 2005, work on reconstruction of 1698 schools had been completed by ERRA with an amount of PKR 9491.023 million.
But 1227 schools still awaited reconstruction, she said, among which 645 schools were at various stages of construction.
“Work on these schools couldn’t continue when we ran out of funds.”
In view of the delayed reconstruction in the region since the earthquake, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, on a visit to Hazara region in December 2014, announced that the government would rebuild schools hit by the earthquake.
He promised the Hazara people that education centres would be built in districts of Shangla, Batgaram, Mansehra and Abbotabad.
The prime minister promised the project would be fully funded – with an allocation of PKR 8 billion – while other ongoing projects would be transferred to the provincial government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, with funding from the federal government.
But the premier’s promise of building the new schools hasn’t come to pass.
“Only 76 schools could be built under the Prime Minister’s reconstruction programme,” said Ms. Haris.
She said although the prime minister had instructed authorities in the earthquake-affected region to reconstruct schools within a year, two years on since his promise work on schools had been dragging due to lack of provision of funds.
Shazia did not say how much of the promised funds had been spent on schools under the prime minister’s scheme and if there was any hope of getting the remaining funds anytime soon.
Hashmat Ali, a Senior Planning Officer at the Education Department in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, said that since ERRA had been mandated to reconstruct the schools, the provincial education department couldn’t work on rebuilding schools.
“We have written several letters to the federal government to release the required funds to ERRA to complete reconstruction swiftly or provide us the funds to do the same but there has been no response yet,” said Ali.
Ali said that the Minister for Education Muhammad Atif and the spokesperson for the KP government Mushtaq Ahmed Ghani had also held press conference twice for the purpose but it didn’t elicit any response from the prime minister.
Sahibzada Hamid Mehmud, Additional Director Establishment at the Education Directorate, said that dozens of chools taken up by different NGOs soon after the earthquake had been built within a few months, showing better commitment on their part.