Thursday, November 18, 2010

Natural disasters and emergencies miss out on budget



THE National Agriculture Research Institute is concerned that no funding was allocated in the national budget for emergencies and unexpected natural disasters like the climate change-induced prolonged dry spells that were widely publicised recently, The National reports.

NARI director-general Dr Raghunath Ghodake said while K5.7million was appropriated for disaster risks management and disaster management getting K1.9 million, nothing was specifically set aside for natural disasters and emergencies.

Experts had said the El Niño phenomenon was likely to hit PNG between next year and 2014, causing severe drought everywhere.

When asked for his comments on the 2011 budget yesterday, Ghodake said: “Yes, indeed, we are all concerned that there has been no funding apportioned for climate change-related drought events. 

“There is a development project funded for NARI this year, and that was to have continued for the next four years so that we can prepare PNG and its communities for a severe drought.

“I cannot comprehend how this was misplaced, and I am in touch with central agencies to find out and have already expressed my concern and dissatisfaction to them.

“I can only guess at this stage that there may have been some misunderstanding and omission, and also hope that good sense prevails and this area gets funding support in whatever way possible.”

According to the NARI website, there were strong indications for El Niño conditions developing in the later part of next year.

Ghodake said in an article posted on the website that food production in PNG was highly vulnerable to El Niño-induced droughts and other seasonal events of droughts. 

He warned that unless action was taken to empower and equip our farming and rural communities with appropriate technologies and information, people would be exposed to food insecurity, malnutrition and hunger. 

“It is advisable that PNG has contingency measures in place which can be activated at short notice to deal with drought and food shortage situations under such a highly likely scenario.”

Besides food and water shortages in the rural and urban areas, severe droughts could cause disease outbreaks, population out-migration, school closures, bush and forest fires, hydro-power shortages, breakdown of transport and communication infrastructures and law and order problems. 

Many parts of Eastern Highlands and Morobe had reported cases of people and domestic animals dying from starvation as a result of food and water sources drying up.

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