More disaster updates

(1) Behind Scenes of Gulf Oil Spill, Acrimony and Stress. NY Times , Aug. 27. Interesting account of the behind the scenes struggles between BP and the federal government and among the many engineers involved.

(2) Regarding Pakistan, the dimensions of the damage and losses are hard to comprehend.  Two key points about recovery stand out in stark relief: the need to do more than replace infrastructure but in fact to rebuild in a better way.  The need to create and maintain a vision for betterment of society and the nation will be very hard to attain there;  the temptation for a “snap back” to past ways is always strong.  US foreign policy and foreign aid objectives also are in play here.

Pakistan Flood Sets Back Years of Gains on Infrastructure. NY Times.

You have to highlight that the infrastructure all the way from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa to Sindh is ruined … referring to Pakistan’s northernmost and southernmost provinces. “It will take years to rebuild.”

Nearly 20 million people have been significantly affected, about the population of New York State… The number in urgent need is now about eight million and expected to rise. More than half of them are without shelter. The government’s estimates of the damage are equally grim. More than 5,000 miles of roads and railways have been washed away, along with some 7,000 schools and more than 400 health facilities. Just to build about 500 miles of road in war-ravaged Afghanistan, the United States spent $500 million and several years, according to USAID.

And the agency has spent $200 million to rebuild just 56 schools, 19 health facilities and other services since the momentous earthquake in the Pakistani-controlled portion of Kashmir in 2005. One estimate …put the total cost of the flood damage at $7.1 billion. That is nearly a fifth of Pakistan’s budget, and it exceeds the total cost of last year’s five-year aid package to Pakistan passed by Congress.

Water and energy were a prime focus of the five-year $7.5 billion American aid package for Pakistan passed by Congress last year. The Obama administration had hoped to use the legislation as the centerpiece of a lasting strategic partnership with Pakistan and to help buttress the economy and Pakistan’s weak government institutions. Now, American officials fear that money will end up being spent just to get Pakistan back to where it was before the “super flood.” The US has already redirected $50 million of the aid package to help with the flood recovery, and the disaster will force a review of all projects that had been planned, Dr. Shah said.

“Priorities will necessarily have to shift and shift so that there is more of a recovery and reconstruction approach than people were thinking just a few months ago….He and other American officials are insisting that the disaster be treated as an opportunity for Pakistan to “leapfrog” ahead and help it build water and energy systems better than what was destroyed. They point to successes that grew out of the 2005 earthquake in Pakistan, namely the creation of the National Disaster Management Administration, which is now spearheading the government response to the floods. But diplomats said government accountability and reforms in the rule of law would have to accompany the effort and the aid money.“This is going to be very, very difficult, this is a huge scale disaster,” Dr. Shah said. “But we have to continue to be optimistic and look for those opportunities to help Pakistan to use this to build back better.”

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