Every year thousands die in traffic accidents, fire incidents, houses collapses, trains mishaps, suicides, street crimes and natural disasters, but hardly any sound prevention or mitigatory measures is visible at government level. Even the Disaster Management authorities in Pakistan always tackle calamities after happening.

Confining only to setting up rescue centres like 1122 and patch work approach is not enough. There is dire need of a reforms package including public education awareness through media.

Pakistani media - both print and electronic - is now fairly independent and is playing a positive role in national affairs. The federal and provincial governments should use the power of media and allocate special funds for educating the people through advertisements and short documentaries especially on various issues.

People should be advised to get their dilapidated houses checked from authorities while the financial assistance shall be provided by the government. The municipal authorities should also carry out inspections of houses in poor conditions. As houses collapses are so infrequent in the country due to lack of awareness and poverty, the authorities should carry out inspections of localities and warn the house owners about the danger. The government should also offer house repair loans to those living under poverty line.

There is also a need of publicising Islamic injunctions on suicides and way out for depressed and oppressed people.

People should be given awareness about fire prevention. Fire incidents have lately become frequent in Pakistan. There is a strong need to educate people on fire hazards so that they could take voluntary preventive measures. Big industries and establishments should be asked to follow global standards like OHSAS 18001 (Organizational Health & Safety Assessment System) and other safety codes.

Traffic accidents, causing loss of thousands of human lives, are the result of sheer negligence on the part of government agencies and lack of public awareness. By law, it is a duty of government and vehicle owners particularly of heavy traffic vehicles to go under mechanical inspection. Short regulatory measures are also needed while annual inspection of vehicles needs to be made mandatory.

Issuance of driving licenses must be well regulated. Vehicles which do not comply with regulations must not be allowed to ply on roads. In developed countries, these procedures are strictly implemented and that is why there are lesser road accidents.

Disasters may broadly be classified as natural or manmade. Natural calamities like floods, rains and earthquakes are often beyond control of governments and the people. However, prevention and protection can be taken against the extent of damage caused by disasters like floods and earthquakes.

For this very purpose, proper planning is needed. For example, Bangladesh used to receive frequent floods in the past but with rigorous planning, strong political will and vibrant bureaucracy, the frequency of flood and damages have been significantly minimised.

Likewise, earthquake damages can also be controlled by revising construction methods and building codes etc.

Medical insurance should be introduced to facilitate treatment of the poor who cannot afford medical treatment of deadly diseases. In developed countries, this practice is very much followed. Insurance companies would be interested in this program.

Train mishaps have also been occurring frequently in the country. Terrorism factor is very much a suspected major cause for these tragedies. However, the railways system in Pakistan is also getting deteriorated. Bridges have not been evaluated for strength and dependability. Pakistan Railways should prepare a master plan for revamping and system modernisation.

n The writer is Chairman Standing Committee Lahore Chamber of Commerce & Industry.