Pakistan: Recovery may take 10 more years - expert; Quake-hit areas in Kashmir, NWFP

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ISLAMABAD, Oct 31: A British writer and disaster expert, John Lane, on Friday said complete rehabilitation and reconstruction in the quake-hit areas of Azad Kashmir and NWFP may take another 10 years.

Answering questions after delivering a talk on "Earthquake 2005: Past, present and future" organised here by Pattan Development Organisation, he said it would not be something to be ashamed of as it was a natural disaster of high magnitude.

Mr Lane, who is authoring a book on the October 8 earthquake, said a remarkable progress had been made since the devastating earthquake rattled parts of Azad Kashmir and NWFP three years ago.Stressing that one has to be realistic, he pointed out that it took years to recover from the traces of natural disasters, with even rubble removal taking a long time. He said most of the areas he had visited during his current visit gave an entirely different picture after three years with no vestige of tragedy.

Asked to comment on the objections that the reconstruction process was snail-paced, he said people also criticise the army for what they call a delayed response, but this was something incorrect. He said he still remembered the time when he was astonished to see the army building a bridge in 21 days.

He said recovery, reconstruction, rehabilitation and revival of economic activity were the catch phrases that followed the rescue and relief phases of the emergency. Implicitly there had been a cherished Utopian dream of building back better, including poverty alleviation. He, however, said it took time to bridge the gulf between hopes and ground realities.

He agreed that still there were more than 20,000 houses to be built, the number of permanent schools was low and none of the 12 District Headquarters hospitals had been completed, but said it was not something surprising for him. He said the attitude of donors, who had committed to provide more than the estimated amount required for reconstruction, did not fulfil their promises.

Citing an example of the attitude of donors, he said the Pattan's shelter was the best with a cost of $200, but it faced difficulties in finding donors.

Referring to his visit to Balakot, he said unquestionably, through the resilience and fortitude of its citizens, the city was back on its feet.

He said incidentally, the massive concrete bridge across the river had somehow been levered back into its rightful place and was again secure.

About his book, he said it would set on record the wider picture of the tragedy and achievements made so far. He said the book would also highlight the shortcomings in the rehabilitation and reconstruction process and reflect the aspirations of the people of the affected areas.

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