ISLAMABAD: Azad Jammu and Kashmir President Sardar Masood Khan has proposed to invite United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs to visit AJK and also organise an international conference to review the adverse effects of climate change in the Himalayan region.
He made the proposal while meeting with National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) Chairman Lt-Gen Mohammad Afzal who called on him at the Kashmir House in Islamabad on Thursday.
During the meeting, a number of issues including loss of life and property caused by the recent avalanche in Neelum Valley, and rehabilitation of earthquake victims of Mirpur were discussed in detail.
President Masood said that in the proposed conference, officials of AJK and the federal government’s Ministry of Climate Change as well as international experts should be invited to prepare practicable recommendations.
He also stressed the need of immediate relief and rehabilitation of the avalanche victims in Seri Surgan and Surgan Bakwali villages as well as payment of compensation of the destruction of their cultivatable lands and crops.
“Survey of Neelum Valley, Leepa Valley and other calamity-prone parts of Azad Kashmir should be comprehensively carried out, precautionary measures adopted, and side-by-side with creating awareness among the local people about the safety measures, emergency steps should be taken to shift the affected people to safer places,” he said.
The AJK president went on to say that due to unchecked deforestation and since the 2005 earthquake, the ecosystem including the soil composition of the valley has become fragile, and the population living in the foothills of mountains remains under threat of floods, landslides and avalanches, while lack of proper communication system in these areas further adds to danger faced by the local population.
While appreciating the NDMA chief’s commitment and untiring efforts, the president expressed the hope that the authority would become a strong national organisation in the coming years.
While highlighting the demography of the mountainous valley, Lt-Gen Afzal said that in view of the peculiar situation of Azad Kashmir, it is pertinent to discourage new settlements in areas prone to natural calamities. Besides, international construction codes should be strictly applied.
With the cooperation of the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, he also said the NDMA intends to launch a five-year disaster management project.
Besides this, the NDMA is planning to launch a sustainable fund under which relief would be provided on emergency footings to the people affected by any natural calamity without affecting the government’s own development funds.”
A disaster management university will also be established to educate and create awareness about disaster management, he added.