October 11, 2005

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I share Macam-Macam"s indignation concerning the Muzaffarabad earthquake. The death toll is conservatively estimated to be around 20,000, but there is overheated rhetoric about a "dead city" and a "lost generation" already. As if hurricanes, typhoons, floods, and tsunamis were not enough, now one of the world's most troubled regions is buried under rubble.

This harrowing disaster is made even more bitter, considering that most of the victims are reported to be children crushed under debris while studying in urban schools. The CSM has advocated the least costly solution, earthquake-proof schools. Any hope of a Greek-Turkish reconciliation between Pakistan and India, which both claim the disputed Kashmir region where the earthquake took place, have also been flattened. Both sides of the disputed border suffered casualties, but Pakistan received the largest shock by far.

For those needing a silver lining, though, there is the hope that the jihadis and their infrastructure suffered disproportionately to the rest of the general population affected.

As aid begins to flow into the stricken region, and more requests go out, though, I have to ask again, as I did in the aftermath of the December, 2004 tsunami and Hurricane Katrina, if this disaster in Kashmir is not a man-made disaster? Donor fatigue is certain to rise, as the number of disasters increases, with hurricane/typhoon season still dragging on. Can we not at least evaluate the local governments involved in all these disaster operations, from Louisiana to FEMA, from Colombo to Jakarta, and New Dehli to Islamabad, to both prevent a disaster and to react to them? After all, none of these regions affected are strangers to their respective menaces. I have to ask, too, if these governments are not culpable. Is there not a better policy than to wait for disaster to strike, and then beg the international community for assistance that is always promised, yet seldom materializes? Why would anyone want to live in a disaster zone? Why would a government let these people do so?

Commenting on ideas circulating to rebuild New Orleans in the wake of Katrina, The Economist, offered this depiction of merely one of Washington's failings (subscription-required) operable in Kashmir as well:

Hurricane damage is covered by private property insurance, but since 1968 flood insurance has been provided by the government, through the National Flood Insurance Programme.

Although this insurance is both subsidised and obligatory for anyone with a federally-insured mortgage, remarkably few people in the Gulf Coast seemed to have it. In Mississippi's coastal countries, less than one in five households have flood insurance; even in New Orleans it is under half. In Mississippi, Richard Scruggs, a lawyer famous for taking on the tobacco industry, has already asked the state's attorney-general to challenge private insurance firms' ability to exclude flood insurance on the grounds that this exclusion is “unconscionable”.

So far, Congress has focused on giving the flood-insurance programme more money. The likely pay-outs to those who have flood insurance are around $10 billion but the federal plan has only about $1 billion of reserves. On September 12th, Congress raised the amount the flood plan could borrow to $3.5 billion. That figure will surely go higher still; and there is also the potential cost of helping both the uninsured and the underinsured—through subsidised loans and the like—to rebuild their homes and businesses.

In theory, Mr Bush could use this opportunity to reform the system and reduce the extent to which Uncle Sam subsidises people living in disaster-prone areas. But raising premiums and making insurance mandatory are both unpopular.

One of the aspects I like about Robert Kaplan's, Benjamin Barber's, and Michael Klare's work is the role they allot for ecological factors in their respective International relations theories. The confluence of poverty, globalization, ethnicity, and religion overlaps with hostile ecosystems. Ideally, there are few desirable places where humans can live, and human hubris and technological ingenuity seem daily to limit even that narrow space even more. In return for settling marginal areas, governments should make certain those areas are safe and at least return to the nation's coffers what others have to donate in taxes and charity to make them habitable. Insurance, sane zoning, controlling population growth, and tax policies are good starts. Humans continue to settle in areas unfavorable for the species' survival, and governments keep ignoring them. It's better to encourage individuals to better themselves, than to support marginalized people having producing dead statistics while the fortunate have babies.

We are mourning for people who died dead, the unfortunate statistics of human pride and misgovernance, surplus labor and prejudice. It's not enough to ask how money could have been better allocated. We have to ask why we all are content just to throw away money not to consider that.

Jodi has a link to the Mercy Corps.

Donate to the Red Cross

posted by Infidel on 10.11.05 at 12:17 PM in the Environment category.


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Its very interesting opinion.

posted by: ライブチャット on 10.16.05 at 09:39 AM [permalink]

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