By Muzaffar Ali
LAHORE: The Civil Defence Organisation (CDO) is in a pathetic state owing to the prolonged negligence by the city government, a senior official of CDO told Daily Times in condition of anonymity.
He said that in 1990, the CDO received its first percent of the city budget in connection with the Punjab Local Government Ordinance 1969 and 2001: making it obligatory for local bodies to allocate one percent of their budget for civil defence. After that, funds were provided to them occasionally but they (funds) were less than the required amount. He said that in 2001, the city district government stopped providing funds and since then, no fund had been provided to them.
Furthermore, he mentioned that in 2002, City District Nazim Mian Amer Mahmood promised to provide Rs 5 million to the CDO for new fire fighting, bomb disposal, first aid and flood rescue equipment, but this promising fund had not been provided so far. He said that Mahmood had also directed every union nazim to provide Rs100, 000 to the CDO, but none complied. Under the directions of Mahmood, 150 union council nazims promised to provide one room in their offices for establishing civil defence warden posts. The official said that five years had gone by and no room facility had been provided.
Contrary to this, he said that three town nazims of Badhami Bagh, Sanda Road and Township had illegally occupied three out of the 18 buildings that belonged to the CDO.
The senior official of the CDO told Daily Times that due to the lack of funds, the number of volunteers was decreasing day by day. He said that Lahore was divided into 11 divisions and there were only 3,500 registered volunteers, out of which more than 2000 were without training to deal with emergencies.
The Punjab Local Government Ordinance 2001 has no provision regarding the allocation of budgets for upgrading departments, equipment, training and purchasing uniforms for volunteers. The official was of the opinion that the city, as well as the Punjab governments, was deliberately curtailing the role of the CDO. According to building bylaws, no construction could be started until building owners requested No Objection Certificates (NOC) from them. He said that Lahore Development Authority had not bothered to ask them for one. He said that even factories, petrol pumps, banks and other commercial and residential buildings had not been issued NOCs since 2005.
The city government Lahore issued appreciation letters to CDO volunteers for executing excellent duty from 2nd Muharram to 10th Muharram in the city. He said that due to the lack of a bomb disposal staff, they trained a dozen volunteers who reached the Mall Road on 14 February, 2006. He said, also when the protesters of Namoos-e-Risalat burned the shops, the volunteers of the CDO extinguished the fire. The official said that keeping in mind the current conditions of the CDO, he feared that trained volunteers would not be provided in the future to deal with natural disasters and massive emergencies.
He said that the importance of civil defence could not be ruled out in future and it was obligatory for the government to upgrade this department with modern equipment and better-trained volunteers, keeping in view The Local Bodies Ordinance Punjab 2001: it clearly makes the city government responsible for the civil defence of its local areas, and in this respect, is expected to perform such functions as may be specified by the government.