Pakistan is prone to natural disasters specifically earthquakes. Over the past 12 years, the country, especially the Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces have witnessed frequent earthquakes because these two provinces lie in the foothills of Himalaya —- the most seismically active region in the world. According to a study carried out by Seismology Research Center, Melbourne, Australia, if an earthquake had not been occurring in a fault line for past several years or decades, there is a maximum probability that a large amount of energy is being stored in the fault, which can cause an earthquake of greater magnitude any time. So, Islamabad can experience an earthquake any time in the near future. 

Apart from natural processes, human factors such as the construction of dams or reservoirs also contribute to trigger earthquakes. In 1967, an earthquake measured 6 on Richter scale shook Koyna Dam in Maharashtra, India, just after one year of its construction, causing heavy human and property losses. Though, the area was believed to be seismically stable, fault was triggered due to massive pressure built inside the pores as a result of water storage. 

Rawalpindi is a less developed area and is situated at a lower altitude compared to Islamabad. Also, Nullah Leh passes through the entire city carrying sewerage water along with domestic and industrial solid waste. During floods, the situation worsens because of overflows and many low lying areas get drowned especially when spillways of the dam are opened. When asked about how the early warning is issued to Rawalpindi when spillways are opened, SDO Adeel Afzal said, “We do not coordinate with Rawalpindi Development Authority but we do inform Pakistan Army and National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA).” 

There is a need to take immediate measures to save the twin cities from an impending disaster. Firstly, a well-managed coordination among the concerned departments can save the low lying areas and slums along Leh from heavy destruction. Secondly, National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) and Pakistan Geological Survey can play an important role in developing strategies for disaster preparedness in both the cities. They can collaborate with RDA and other municipal authorities on this issue. Thirdly, the media can be engaged to create awareness regarding disaster preparedness and management related to any earthquake in the near future. 

Rawalpindi Development Authority needs to prepare an action plan regarding the kachi abadis along Nullah Leh. Rawalpindi Waste Management Company (RWMC) needs to carry out the cleaning of Leh before every monsoon. There is also a need for waste management strategy because pollution will further aggravate the situation in case of such disasters. Dumping in Nullah Leh should be stopped because if an earthquake occurs, the water from Rawal Dam will eventually gush towards Rawalpindi and ultimately Nullah Leh will aggravate the situation. 

ZAINAB NAEEM, 

Islamabad, September 1.