14 September, 2010
By Col. Riaz Jafri (Retd)
Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani needs 3 billion dollars to distribute amongst the flood hit victims to reconstruct their houses that have been washed away. According to him it is the top priority task with his government. While the heart of every Pakistani bleeds for the poor flood victims and would like to see them soonest back under their own roofs yet, I would suggest that instead of doling out the cash the government should undertake the reconstruction work itself. The reasons for such a recommendation are:-
a.Distribution of cash will involve the Land Revenue and Civil Administrative staff at village and Tehsil level, who generally do not enjoy good reputation. Large scale corruption is, therefore, bound to take place. We saw it happen in December 1974 Kohistan quake and again in October 2005 Muzaffarabad / Mansehra holocaust . Need we repeat the same here too? It will just be counter productive and no worthwhile construction will take place.
b.Cash given to the cash-starved people might not be spent all on the construction of their houses and some of it may be used for their other basic necessities of life, which they also need badly. Thus, the construction will be poor and substandard.
c. Each person would construct his house according to his own whims disregarding its hygienic & environmental needs or its conformity to other civic needs of the locality like approach road(s), layout of streets and drains etc. resulting in not only haphazard and defective construction but also detrimental to many essential requirements of the community living.
d.Government can engage experts to devise cheap and ingenious ways and methods for economical construction. Brazil used mud hollow bricks made of mud mixed with hey and compressed in a small locally made cheap hand compressor, churning out brick after brick by the local village girls. Such mud walls were later plastered with cement. Use of steel and concrete is otherwise too not very suitable for our hot and extreme climates.
The floods played havoc and destroyed almost all dirt and metalled roads, culverts and bridges, houses, barns and farms, ponds, wells and other water reservoirs, rural infrastructure, electric poles and pylons. In short it washed away anything that came its way. While the destruction is enormous it has a silver lining too. Now that it has been “shattered all into bits, why not remould it nearer heart’s desire ?” (Khayyam). Let’s reconstruct it all in a planned and modern manner for a newer Pakistan. Germany had to be bombed to be rebuilt anew. Istanbul was bulldozed to widen its narrow and labyrinthine streets. Nature has done it here, who knows to afford a similar opportunity to us for rebuilding a modern Pakistan.
In our rural areas an individual holds land in two categories. One, the fields that he cultivates and two, the house that he lives in. Fields are at the peripheral or some distance away from the living area, whereas the houses are within a small perimeter. Areas of each part of the village (residential as well as fields) are well demarcated in the Land Revenue Records. For the purpose of the reconstruction of the houses we will confine our suggestions to the living area of the village only. In that :
1. For planning and construction the entire living area of a village - hereinafter called ‘the Residential Area or the RA’ shall be treated as one unit. Irrespective of the land holdings of an individual in the RA, the entire living area shall be amalgamated into one unit and then suitably divided to meet various requirements of the residents to lead a comfortable life. Under this new scheme an individual may get either lesser area of land or may be more than his original holding. The one getting lesser area would be duly compensated for the land ‘lost’ by him and the one getting more area than that he held previously will pay for the extra land that comes to his new share. The RA shall have:
- Residential Houses and Streets
- Shopping Area (Shops)
- Community Areas and buildings
- Utility Installations & Facilities
- Cattle Area and Sheds
2. Residential Streets: The concept is a little Revolutionary. In well laid out streets (15 feet wide) with proper drains and drainage on either side, well designed, well ventilated and insulated 2 bed, 3 bed and 4 bed room houses with running water, flush toilet and sewerage will be built. These houses will be allotted through balloting according to the size and need of a family. A comparatively poorer family with 5 children may be given a 4 bed room house as compared to a richer family comprising of only a couple or a couple and a child, who will get a 2 bed room house.
- One house one family will be ensured.
3. Shopping Area (Shops): A few shops depending upon the size and population of the RA, constructed at some suitable central place or places, either sold out or rented out. The rented shops will belong to the Community Central Account to be used for the joint welfare of all.
4. Community Areas & Buildings: All that is needed for community living will be catered for at proper and suitable places in the RA, such as: Community Centre (large enough to hold functions both happy and sorrowful), Mosque, School or Schools, Library, Play Ground(s), Park and Garden, Dispensary, Post office (if authorised), Vocational Centre for girls, Grave Yard, etc. Large scale Tree plantation, orchards and Zakheera, Fruit Trees, and lined floral and ever green trees in the streets of RA will be done centrally by the Community Affairs Committee.
5. Utility Installations & Facilities:
5.1 Water: Tube Well and Central Overhead Water Tank with water distribution pipes for the entire RA,
5.2 The Power: With most of the transmission pylons gone, it will take long to provide power to the villages. Some of them did not have power even before the floods. The whole exercise of providing them with power will be a very expensive affair. Alternate sources of power - Solar and Wind Energy – seem to be the quick and cost effective answer and can be done easily.
5.3 Biogas (Gobar gas) Plant: Plenty of gobar (cow/buffalo/horse/donkey/goat dung etc.) will be available for a proper biogas plant, which could supply enough gas for cooking and heating in the RA.
6. Cattle Area and Sheds: Unlike the present custom and practice the cattle would have to be kept out of the living quarters of the residents for obvious reasons of hygiene and sanitation. Special area and sheds will be needed for them. A culture of Commune Cattle Farming may have to be introduced. The cattle area will have proper washing facility, fodder cutting machine(s), a cattle dispensary with a vet on call or present depending upon the size of the cattle farm. Owners can take turns at manning the area (farm). Naturally, a Central Cattle Committee will manage the affairs of all cattle. A biogas plant run from the cattle dung will be quite in order for the modern hygienic living.
Dear Countrymen, sad as it is, but there was no escape from it either as God willed it so. So, let’s bow before His will, seek His pardon for our collective sins, and seek His mercy and help in reconstructing what we lost. It is not something that cannot be done. We can do it and let’s do it, with Allah (swt) help. AND CONSTRUCT WILL WE, STILL BETTER, ameen.