The experts at a seminar on Thursday said the country needed a holistic and all-inclusive ‘whole of nation’ approach with a focus on self-reliance to developing its indigenous capacities for coping with the natural disasters of biblical magnitude. The Centre for Strategic Perspectives (CSP) at the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad (ISSI) and Islamabad Security Dialogue (ISD) jointly organised a panel discussion on “Managing Natural Disasters in Pakistan”, here, to initiate discourse on the country’s growing climate vulnerability and possible solutions. Director CSP Dr Neelum Nigar in her opening remarks said Pakistan has faced natural hazards that escalated into humanitarian disasters over the past many years whereas the prevailing massive torrential rain flood resulting crisis had caused massive damage to life, property, and jeopardised food security of 220 million. Director General ISSI Ambassador Aizaz Chaudhry in his welcome remarks said the seminar was part of the series of events on climate change, natural hazards, water crisis and other pressing issues. “Climate change has become an existential threat to Pakistan. Keeping in view its relevance, one of the five segments of Islamabad Conclave, the flagship event of ISSI to be held next month, were dedicated to climate change.” “Pakistan made an appeal for funds and international community mobilised huge funds to support relief and rehabilitation efforts. However, ten years down the lane, we saw more disastrous floods and we are still looking for funds by the world.” He added that the funds pledged under the UN flash appeal did not have consonance with the devastation on ground. “I do not want to blame anyone but there is economic crunch due to Ukraine Russia war that has caused price hike and supply chain issues world over. I believe that we should be preparing ourselves in our own feet, increase disaster resilience and preparedness. Each penny received in Pakistan for disaster relief and assistance should be spent on technical capacity build up for disaster management and risk reduction.” The ISSI DG underlined that there were many experts on the subject of climate change and disaster management working under various think tanks who should be given an opportunity to guide policy makers for informed decision making and innovative solutions to address the issue. Member Disaster Risk Reduction of National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) Idris Mehsud in his address said in Pakistan besides hydro-meteorological hazards, it also faced geophysical threats that were more pronounced having immediate impact whereas the floods and climate change were slow moving disasters and were not quick to attract attention. “It’s the second very unprecedented flood situation and is huge in terms of scale in the recorded history. The key question is of our preparedness to ensure risk mitigation and management. Pakistan after 2005 earthquake learnt to create a holistic disaster management system.” Mehsud mentioned that the 2022 massive floods were the combination of different flooding patterns like that of 2010, 2011 and others. It left over two million houses damaged and massive destruction all over. He suggested that there was need to strengthen coordination at the national level whereas the district level coordination was must that catered the local communities and was the weakest link. The NDMA had capacitated itself, provincial disaster management authorities (PDMAs) and others as the country had Rescue 1122 service, urban search and rescue (USAR) teams across the country whereas the 1122 was the first UN-INSARAG certified rescue service in the region. “The relief response in the recent floods is government supported as relief items have been managed through the public resources including the supplies from nine strategic warehouses of NDMA that can provide three hundred thousand people. Out of which all have been emptied and would be replenished.”The Member DRR was of the view that there was ample legislation done in the country that lacked grassroots level implementation. Secretary National Security Division, Engineer Amir Hasan in his opening remarks said the mainstream media had also given less coverage to floods due to the ongoing political situation. However, an unprepared community resulted in massive losses of all kinds during floods whereas extreme climate disasters with poor preparedness would result in massive humanitarian crisis, he added. “A farmland bigger than Czech republic is inundated in the flood-hit areas leaving ready to reap crops fully damaged. Moreover, the leading international agencies warned of increasing poverty levels whereas another big crisis was of food security after the floods. The country also has the highest malnutrition ratio and due to supply line cuts it will face another hit in this regard.” The panel discussion discussed the disaster management in the country where former lead Disaster Risk Management, World Bank Specialist, Raja Rehan Arshad said the 2022 floods were and should be a wake up call for the nation and it should be ensured to have lessons learnt from it. “We need to take a stock taking of our institutional, policy and regulatory environment and make institutional management or build up to ensure disaster resilience.” While quoting examples, he said the deaths in India due to cyclones were in thousands but in its next cycle that were reduced drastically through better disaster preparedness and management interventions. “The disaster risk reduction is needed to be connected with non state actors like NGOs and civil society. However, the risk identification or assessment is an uphill task which should be done at the central, national or regional level.” WWF-Pakistan Director Governance and Policy, Dr Imran Khalid said extensively discussed gaps in the policy making, implementation and institutional capacities to cope with the whooping impacts of climate change. SDPI Senior Research Associate, Maryam Shabbir Abbasi said the climate induced migrations were linked to economic reasons and it was already happening in Pakistan and world over. “The climate migrants will put more pressure on natural resources and increase competition among the locals and migrants. The worst thing is we lack homework at local level and also at international partnership or collaboration levels as well.” Senior Researcher Heartlife, Ammar Rashid also discussed disaster management and solutions for improving disaster preparedness.