Pakistan

Rebuilding lives in Pakistan after the 2005 quake

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Flying by helicopter over the quake-damaged town of Muzaffarabad, the first signs of reconstruction are the new shiny tin roofs that reflect the bright mountain sunlight. Then, as the aircraft descends, other things come into view - the building sites, the roads bustling with activity and new homes where there used to be ruins.

Eighteen months after the 7.6-magnitude quake killed about 80,000 people, Muzaffarabad, which was close to the epicenter of the temblor and suffered some of the worst damage, is coming back to life.

"We believe it is best to move ahead as fast as possible with our earthquake assistance," Asian Development Bank Vice President Liqun Jin said in a meeting in Muzaffarabad on April 25 with Sardar Attique Ahmed Khan, the Prime Minister of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK).

ADB pledged $1 billion toward reconstruction efforts in Pakistan after the quake struck on Oct. 8 2005 and has already disbursed $183.8 million of its first assistance package of $300 million. On June 27, ADB agreed to another $400 million in new concessional loans.

To promote effective coordination between the Government, ADB and other development partners, the Manila-based development bank on April 25 opened an Extended Mission office in Muzaffarabad. It's the first of its kind in Pakistan for ADB.

"The Extended Mission exemplifies the importance that ADB attaches to the earthquake reconstruction and rehabilitation activities within affected areas and its continued support to the Government to manage the earthquake activities with due diligence," Mr. Jin said in a speech at the opening of the new office.

With cold winters in the mountains freezing the ground and making it impossible to continue reconstruction for about half the year, Mr. Sardar Attique said he had work crews doing 16-hour shifts during summer months.

"People here thought they could get back to their normal lives a few weeks or months after the earthquake," he said. "But I keep telling them that it will take 10 to 12 years. We are telling our people not to be impatient."

Juan Miranda, Director General of ADB's Central and West Asia Department, told Mr. Sardar Attique that ADB was also working to rehabilitate the local economy, as well as financing the reconstruction of buildings, roads and other physical infrastructure.

"We will be here for the long haul," he promised.

About $72 million of the money ADB has already disbursed is being used for rebuilding schools and other educational needs, $69.3 million is going toward reconstructing roads and other transport projects, $27.5 million for health and $14.9 million for power projects. The $400 million in new funding expected to be approved in June will be used mainly in the rural housing and education sectors.

Muzaffarabad, located at the confluence of the Jhelum & Neelum rivers and nestled between verdant hills, was chosen as the site of ADB's new Extended Mission because of its close proximity and access to all five earthquake affected districts of North West Frontier Province (NWFP) and the four districts of AJK. The Government of AJK provided the land and facilitated the construction of the building.

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