Environmental geologists are usually in agreement that there is no such thing as a ‘natural disaster’, only natural hazards, of great or small magnitude, occurring frequently. It is the human element of the equation - causes, vulnerability, preparedness, results and response, and reconstruction - which decides how disastrous the hazard is. The ordering of human society is the cause of death and destruction; which explains why natural disasters are much less destructive in the developed world.

That being said, the earthquake that hit Kashmir in 2005 was a massive one, which would have bypassed most precautionary measures. Being unprepared the region was devastated, whole towns were flattened. The earthquake killed over 73,000 people, 600,000 homes were destroyed, and 3.5 million people made homeless. Even for a country ravaged by terrorism and surrounded by conflict these are terrible numbers, terrible enough to wake even the most apathetic out of their slumber.

For a while Pakistan responded with befitting vigour; aid and donations poured in, volunteers left for the northern en masse and every government and non-government institute lend a hand. Ten years down the line - a small period of time on the scale of societal reconstruction - the government’s aid programs have all but vanished. Perhaps most crucially, all the precaution that should have been taken now that the risk is known are not enforced.

Balakot, a town that was virtually razed, has once more become a bustling society, but its houses are built on land which was declared a ‘red zone’ due to faults running underneath. The government trained thousands of masons and builders to construct earthquake resistant houses, but people only build such houses by choice, there are no official requirements or a central building committee to oversee new construction. Infrastructure and basic facilities were repaired, but large reconstruction projects lie abandoned - such as the ‘New Balakot City” - that were promised but never begun.

Earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanic eruptions have been called natural disasters and ‘acts of God’ because they deflect responsibility from human errors. The next time an earthquake devastates the vulnerable northern areas; it shouldn’t be termed a ‘natural’ disaster.