In twenty years of teaching and researching environmental and technological disasters, I have learned there is nothing natural about them. The damage from an earthquake, flood or forest fire is as much God’s will as the invention of the wheel, airplane or computer may be God’s will. It is not God’s will that only the poorest of Rawalpindi-Islamabad should live in the flood plain and should be the only ones to suffer from floods. It is not God’s will that 73,000 die in the Kashmir earthquake and 8,800 in Nepal in an earthquake of the same magnitude. In fact, earthquakes were not even a hazard to human life until about 10,000 years agowhen humans finally started settling down and started building permanent habitations. No one has ever been hurt by the shaking of the Earth. People only get hurt when they build unsafe structures that come crashing down on their heads. The tragedy of scores getting burned in the Bahawalpur tanker accident was not God’s will. We must not allow incompetence and malice to hide behind protestations of God’s will. In my city of London there has recently been the tragedy of more than 70 people dying in the Grenfell tower blaze. The tower was part of the construction spree of the 1960s and 70s to provide public housing to those who cannot afford it. The tower housed mostly the poor, the ethnic minorities, the immigrants — many of them so called, illegal, and the elderly. It is located in one of the toniest neighbourhoods in London, and even in the World, Kensington — where Lady Diana lived. The tower’s presence in the midst of such disgusting affluence may have contributed to the scale of the tragedy. The tower underwent refurbishments worth £8.6 million just last year where they focused more on making the tower look pretty with outside cladding and cosmetic changes, without paying any attention to fire safety for the residents. The residents protested but no one listened. The consequence of the neglect was that a minor refrigerator fire spread to the flammable outside cladding which engulfed the tower within minutes and caused a catastrophe. The convergence of poverty, ethnicity, class and corporate greed made the Grenfell tragedy possible. The local council had to pay more attention to the appearance of the tower. Ugly towers are bad for multi-million pound property values around it. I fear that the story of Bahawalpur fire tragedy may be no different. A number of questions arise regarding the Bahawalpur tragedy. What are the safety specifications for tankers carrying flammable material in Pakistan? Who enforces them? When was the last time the tanker was inspected for compliance? Shouldn’t safety standards provide that afuel leak should not happen in case of the tanker turning over? Are lax standards and then corruption surrounding compliance, God’s will? Who is responsible — Godor the state? In Pakistan the PML (N) government has promised us development through roads and large infrastructure. We believe in the development-elixir of roads so much that our Army chief declares the mass murder of lawyers in Quetta a conspiracy against our road projects. The tragedy of scores getting burned in the Bahawalpur tanker accident was not by any measure God’s will. We must not allow incompetence and malice to hide behind protestations that it was The people of Ramzanpur Joya had the opportunity to realise the developmental potential of the national highway running right next to them for more than a century. Granted that the road is no motorway, otherwise they could have been as developed as, say Khanqah Dogran, which has reaped the benefits of M2 motorway next to it, for the past 20 years. Still, so poor were they, so desperate were they, and perhaps also, so ignorant were they, that they ran to the scene of the accident with their jerry cans, buckets and even pots and pans to dish up some fuel — that they couldn’t otherwise afford. Perhaps to run the water pump, electricity generator, or to put in their motorbikes or just to sell — who knows? Whose fault is it that they were desperate? There was a common refrain by the frustrated relatives of missing people in Grenfell tower that, this is 2017! How can such a tragedy happen in London, in 2017? It is also 2017 in Bahawalpur, and yet no one will ask, how could it happen in 2017? Does Ramzanpur Joya exist outside of history? It is the state’s fault that it is not 2017 in Ramzanpur Joya. It is the state’s fault that people were so poor and so ignorant and, its health and safety regulations so useless, that so many people had to die. The day we accept this reality is the day we make a start to bringing the Ramzanpur Joyas of Pakistan to 2017. Just the roads won’t do it. The writer is a Reader in Politics and Environment at the Department of Geography, King’s College, London Published in Daily Times, June 29th, 2017.