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Earthquake 2005: Impacts and Strategies

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Natural disasters pose a considerable threat to the economic and social structure in the developing countries. Natural disasters destroy decades of human efforts and investments and thereby place new demands on society for reconstruction and rehabilitation. On October 8, 2005, some parts of the NWFP (North West Frontier Province) and Punjab province of Pakistan and AJK (Azad Jammu and Kashmir) were struck by the most devastating earthquake in recent history of the region. The earthquake measuring 7.6 on the Richter scale had its epicenter in district Muzaffarabad, AJK. Although it was strongly felt over a vast area, the most significantly affected areas were in NWFP and AJK. The earthquake affected a vast area of land stretching from the bordering areas of Afghanistan on the west, to parts of Indian Kashmir in the east. The affected area consists of nine districts: Batagram, Mansehra, Shangla, Muzzafarabad, Neelam, Abbotabad, Poonch and Kohistan in the NWFP and Muzaffarabad, Bagh and Poonch in AJK with a total population of 5.5 million people. The colossal damage caused by the earthquake was exacerbated by aftershocks - which continued till the end of November 2005 and heavy landslides which carried parts of roads and dwellings built on the picturesque slopes.

In the affected areas, the vast majority of the population (88 percent or 4.8 million people) lives in rural areas, 9 percent in major urban centers and 4 percent in semi-urban areas. The affected area is poor, and households rely mostly on agriculture and livestock, small-scale commerce, and remittances to earn a living. The earthquake caused extensive loss of life and physical damage. The Pakistani government's official death toll as of November 2005 stood at 87,350, although it is estimated that the death toll could reach over 100,000. Approximately 38,000 were injured and over 3.5 million rendered homeless. According to government figures, 19,000 children died in the earthquake, most of them in widespread collapses of school buildings. The earthquake affected more than 500,000 families. In addition, approximately 250,000 farm animals died due to collapse of stone barns, and more than 500,000 large animals required immediate shelter from the harsh winter. Immediate efforts focused on rescue operations and the humanitarian needs of survivors.

In terms of geographical area, population and socio-economic infrastructure, the affected districts in NWFP were many times larger than in the ones in AJK. However, relative to the size of their respective regions, the affected districts account for a much larger share of economic activities in AJK than in NWFP. In NWFP, the five affected districts account for nearly a quarter (16,925 km2) of the province's geographical area and 17 percent (3.6 million) of its population. The share of the affected districts in the social and physical infrastructure in the province is found to be higher than their share in population. This is due to lower population density and more scattered settlements in the affected districts than the rest of NWFP and AJK. The five most critical sectors in the affected districts of NWFP in terms of output are: livestock (19 percent of affected districts' output), transport (14.5 percent), trade (14.4 percent), public administration (11.8 percent), crop agriculture (9.3 percent).

The affected districts in AJK account for 63 percent of its geographical area (which is equal to 8,340 km2 ) and 52 percent of its population (1.8 million). Over half of AJK's private housing (51 percent of the stock of houses), schools (54 percent), health institutions (51 percent), road networks (54 percent), and a significant share of households with potable water (43 percent) and electricity connections (19 percent) are located in these three districts. The affected districts of AJK account for as much as 52 percent of the total output generated in AJK, with three sectors--livestock, trade and public administration--accounting for nearly 55 percent of it.

Statement of the Problem

NWFP and AJK are characterised by difficult-to-reach areas, small landholdings, very low literacy rates, traditionally food deficit areas, supported by the government through market interventions and pre-positioning of food stocks for places cut-off by snow during winter months. These support mechanisms have been disrupted by the earthquake. Rural areas are worse off than urban and semi-urban areas, partly because of higher pre-crisis vulnerability. Nearly half of the population lost their houses, leaving roughly 2.5 million people homeless. The earthquake had a serious impact on all dimensions of food security, availability, access and utilization. The Agriculture sector was affected badly. Maize and rice harvests were underway when the earthquake struck. It is estimated that slightly more than thirty percent of the rice crop and nearly 75 percent of the maize crop were lost. Many farmers were unable to plant the winter wheat crop due to damaged land or family problems after earthquake. The earthquake has resulted in a dramatic loss in employment and income. Prior, the main income sources in the affected areas were farming, livestock, agricultural labour and wage labour. Small farmers were usually also engaged in wage labour, which dropped dramatically from 35 percent pre-quake.

Preliminary estimates of the direct damage sustained due to the earthquake total Rs. 135.1 billion (US$2.3 billion). Damage of private housing amounts to Rs. 61.2 billion (US$1 billion), transport sector Rs. 20.2 billion (US$340 million), the education sector Rs. 19.9 billion (US$335 million). agriculture and livestock, totaling Rs. 12.9 billion (US$218 million). industry and services Rs. 8.6 billion (US$144 million). The level of direct damage is higher in AJK than in NWFP. For AJK, it amounts to Rs. 76.4 billion (US$1.3 billion) and for NWFP, Rs. 58.7 billion (US$989 million). The indirect losses resulting from the direct damage estimated above are Rs. 34.2 billion (US$576 million).

Theoretical Framework

The earthquake hazard in Pakistan is high and derives from Pakistan's position on the eastern margin of the collision of the Indian plate with the Eurasian plate. The result is the potential for major earthquakes in the north, where the Indian plate thrusts under the Himalayas, and along the western edge of the country, where transform motion of the Indian plate relative to the Iranian and Afghan micro-plates is expressed with the Chaman fault. The 1935 Quetta earthquake (60,000 killed) occurred on the Chaman fault. The Arabian plate sub-ducts beneath the Iranian plate along Makran coast, where the 1945 magnitude 7.9 earthquake resulted in a tsunami with 12 meter waves.



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