Building disaster-resilient cities key to curbing internal migrations

A comprehensive national policy is required to stop influx of people from rural to urban areas forced by natural disasters such as floods. 

“The policy should focus on developing climate-resilient infrastructure in the countryside,” said Waseem Ahmed, Chief Executive Officer of Islamic Relief Worldwide, a charity.

Talking to WealthPK, he said designing and developing disaster-resilient cities and towns can provide a secure environment to the people, thus discouraging unnecessary migrations.

“Climate change has increasingly forced communities into permanent migrations over the past decade all over the world,” he said. 

He explained that in Pakistan increased patterns of migration in various parts of the country had become an area of concern for the policymakers.

“Pakistan has been mired in cascading crises as its economic outlook worsened due to the devastating floods of 2022, leading to a rise in market risk perceptions, slowing down of growth, an increase in trade deficit and declining revenues,” he pointed out.

Waseem Ahmed mentioned that the flood-triggered migration last year put immense pressure on urban infrastructure, which was ill-equipped to handle such sudden population surges. “The traditional patterns of monsoon have changed and now they enter Pakistan from the south instead of the northeast, so the intensity, duration and volume of rain is different,” he pointed out. 

The charity’s CEO said that Pakistan lacked urban infrastructure planning and effective migration policy. “Overcrowded settlements, inadequate housing, and stretched healthcare facilities heighten health risks for both migrants and established urban residents.”

"The authorities should take stern action against those who build houses and other properties on the banks of rivers to save lives.”

Waseem Ahmed also called for formulating urban planning in a way that prevents urban flooding to save lives and properties. 

“For a well-functioning society, the government must revamp its settlement policy and channel development through statutory measures and a thoughtful implementation process. For sustainable development, the government should invest in urban and rural areas on an equal basis.”

According to him, there is also a dire need to build dams for storing floodwaters to help reduce the losses caused by flash floods. 

Meanwhile, talking to WealthPK, Shahin Ashraf, Head of Global Advocacy for Islamic Relief Worldwide, said unchecked and rising urbanisation and no national policy on internal migration overburdened the already stressed health, sanitation, housing, security, education, infrastructure, city capacity and other utilities in the urban areas.

“To effectively tackle climate-induced migration, the government must adopt a multifaceted approach. Investing in advanced early warning systems is pivotal. Issuance of timely alerts about impending disasters can facilitate preparedness and evacuation, thus minimising the risk to lives and property.”
He said that this approach required a participatory and inclusive approach, bringing together civil society, the private sector, academia, think-tanks and the international community.

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