Journal of Environmental Treatment Techniques
2017, Volume 5, Issue 4, Pages: 114-117
J. Environ. Treat. Tech.
Disaster Response and Potentials of Social Capital
Asim Bin Waheed
, Arshad Ali
1- MS Student, MCE - NUST, Islamabad, Pakistan
2- Assistant Professor, MCE - NUST, Islamabad, Pakistan
The paper examines the hidden potentials of social capital in disaster response especially with reference to societal
construct of Pakistan. Reference had been made in the paper to tribal culture of FATA (Federal Administrative Tribal
Agency) in managing local emergencies and recovery seen in Swat owing to spirit latent in their society. Social capital
allows people and societies to manage action to achieve desired goals. It has proved to be an important product in s haping
regional development models and since managing disasters is a function of development, this form of capital has a definite
impact on managing disasters. In Pakistan, the social structure of families is interwoven with trust, traditional values,
religious motivation and cultural bindings. This allows them to retain capacity to withstand odds in severe conditions at their
own without outside support. They strive to generate their own volunteers in case of any calamity. Recent examples are the
resilience of people of Swat in 2009 military operations and by urban residents of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) in 2010
Floods. Finally, the dissertation offers some pliable recommendations and a road map to strengthen social capital in effective
: Social systems, social capital, human capital, inter-personal trust, resource potential
continue to grow but have withstood disasters. This only
The frequency and ferocity with which disasters have
happened due to strength of their character, trust in
struck vulnerable communities around the world in
themselves, traditional values, culture, pride and identity
recent times has made people even more resilient and
and belief in their faith; all forming essential traits of
steadfast. From local to international disaster
social construct of a society. The study of social capital,
therefore, plays an important part in response planning as
management related organizations, focus remains on
preventing, mitigating, responding to and effectively
well as execution of response and recovery activities
recovering from a disaster. While all efforts are put in
Ilan 2009, Yong and Dan 2011
In a desk based exercise, the paper takes into account
place to minimize loss of precious life and prevent
damage to property and environment, what is there to
the hidden potentials of social capital latent in Pakistani
come from nature’s side can best be predicted (
society. Case studies from disaster prone regions
especially the tribal belts, Kashmir and Northern Areas
al. 2013, Okmyoung and Bob 2009
). At the same time,
there has been little attention given to how social systems
have been considered for evaluation of the concept and
might be used and modified to deal with disaster
proffering suitable recommendations for defining a road
map for harnessing existing social capital for any
As the disaster strikes, response activities gear up
and whole machinery is seen moving in sync with
potential disaster response (
Tetsuya et al. 2013
already prepared plans with donors and volunteers
rushing to play their part. In the midst of these response
2 Social Capital - Defined
activities and processes, we usually hear accounts of
As one of the emerging concepts in theory of human
inefficiency of state machinery and insensitive attitude of
behavior, social capital has very rich potentials for
the local community. Such behavior or attitude creates
application in variety of human resource management
serious gaps in response operations besides hindering
areas. It is urged to understand the relationship between
outside help, may it be monetary or in kind. This aspect
the societal norms and its probable outcome. While
can best be described as a hidden dimension of response
theoretically, the concept has been discussed in length;
phase of a disaster, which if not considered while
its practical manifestation is still far to be truly
planning, may have serious repercussions for managers
understood. Social capital refers to characteristics of a
at all levels. It also proves that if social structure of a
group, norms and traditions, unity, its ability to socialize
society is so weak, the disasters can create unfathomable
and volunteer and the trust that it enjoys which affects
Tim and Ivan, 2012
). However, despite of
various socio-economic activities. The emergence of this
these misgivings and social voids, societies not only
concept is not new as trust and social networks help
cutting down economic costs immensely (
Daniel and Karen
2007, Victor et al.
Arshad Ali, Assistant Professor,
accumulation of social capital can accrue huge benefits
- NUST, Islamabad, Pakistan E-mail:
to political and economic performance of a civic body.
Social capital can be defined as the combination of
resources, actual or implicit, that builds up to an
To further clarify the concept, let’s compare it with
individual or a group by virtue of possessing a resilient
economic capital which lies in people’s bank accounts
network and best practices. It implies that the term is not
whereas human capital is inside their heads. For a person
a single entity, but a variety of different entities having
to possess social capital, he must be related to others, and
some common aspect of social structure at the same time
it is these others, who are the real source of his or her
facilitating certain actions of individuals who are within
Erica et al. 2002, Brian and Stephania 2007
1.0 illustrates the various elements of social
Robert and Joshua, 2007
Figure 1: Different elements of social capital
3 Importance of Measuring Social Capital
For both individuals and communities alike,
managing risk and opportunities is a key ingredient in the
Social capital has gained wide approval as a
theoretical concept for accepting and predicting the
quest to achieve sustainable development. Whether these
traditions, cultural heritage and public relations
hazards manifest themselves in terms of economic,
political or environmental disasters, the social entities
entrenched in the social structures of societies. This
blueprint of societal interrelationships actually allows
that may be able to withstand the disaster will be only
people to manage action to achieve desired goals. Based
those that are more likely to prosper
Durairaju 2013, Ayse 2012
). A social capital perspective
on this theoretical concept, contemporary researchers
recognize social capital as an important element in
seeks to go beyond primitive cultural values for response
efficient running of modern economies, as an important
strategies, to look instead for structural and relational
features. Since managing disasters is a function of
base for multidisciplinary cooperation in liberal
democracies and finally as an important product in
development, it can be safely concluded that besides
shaping regional development models.
economic investment, this form of capital has a definite
say in managing disasters and therefore must not be
The way social capital is embedding in social
structures may contribute to the public good. On the
contrary, the negative impact of social capital embedded
in autocratic, tightly woven social networks not
4 Recognizing Social Capital in Pakistan
accountable to citizens’ results in corruption and
The fact that most of the recent disasters in Pakistan
cronyism in political and government institutions. It is
including Earthquake 2005, Floods 2010 and 2011 and
therefore clear that social capital is of immense
Landslides in Kashmir / Northern Areas of Pakistan had
significance in safety and welfare of a society (
limited success in effective response by individuals and
Tam 2010, Stephane and Patrice 2009
). The desirable
local communities reinforces importance of social capital
facets of this concept are inter-personal trust, traditional
as a tool to manage disasters. Contrarily, history is rife
values and cultural bindings while other that are more
with examples of locals of FATA and neighboring
instrumental are optimism, contentedness, perceptions of
Afghanistan resisting interventions in case of complex
government institutions and political involvement (
disasters like insurgencies (
Ognian and Dimitroy, 1996
Notwithstanding the societal values harnessed over the
years by tribes through strong cultural values and
Masako and Ryo, 2012
). Just by virtue of the strength
traditional practices, it was ultimately the social
that is provided to righteousness of the cause of these
intangible that made the difference and prevailed.
organizations, it has immense potential to effectively
Traditionally speaking in almost all regions of
respond to any calamity in Pakistan.
Pakistan, social structures of families is geared to retain
In developed countries, there had been evidence that
capacity to undertake additional responsibilities in case
locals provided mass shelter for a large majority of
of emergency. The customs and traditions of these tribes
affected populations whereas planned shelters were
play a vital role in shaping their social outlook. Likewise,
useful only for a small segment of the population.
customs from birth to death and even after death are of
an integral part of the life of Pakistani people. But
5 Roadmap to Incorporate Social Capital in Disaster
Pashtuns are predominantly strict in observing their
traditions, which has been inherited over ages.
Having established the importance of social capital in
Pashtunwali, traditional way of life of Pashtuns, is also
Pakistan’s context and the fact that it can provide a
regarded as an ancient honor code or unwritten law
pliable base for response and recovery phases of disaster
which governs day to day life of individuals and tribes as
management, it is pertinent to suggest some worthwhile
a whole. The tribal system of FATA works on the
measures. These are:-
principal of self sufficiency by virtue to their intrinsic
Pakistani society consists of small family units
human values. They vie to hold their own defense
which might be based on caste, tribe or religion.
mechanisms and generate their own volunteers in case of
These units have an inbuilt strength and given the
any calamity. People of Swat showed same resolve just
governmental and social support may prove
after the Army flushed out terrorists from the valley in
instrumental in responding to disasters. The
Jan and Sarah 2007, Adam 2007, Marrit 2010
resource potential available with these family units
Since the community and affectees are the first
must be integrated in community emergency
responders almost all search and rescue activities are
done by them. Likewise the tribal identity is important in
The traditional structure of societies must be
urban regions of KPK but class dynamics are driven
utilized instead of creating new ones. Additional
more by formal land ownership than tribal identity.
authority for emergency response services must be
Similarly in Punjab, the established landlord and clans
dovetailed in this existing structure to raise stakes
assert their control over resources through influence over
and make system even more resilient. Local
local administration, rather than through a constant state
leadership, if supplemented with outside resources,
of tribal mobilization, as in upper Sindh and eastern
will boost confidence of community.
Whatever measures are adopted, the social identity
Although, experience shows differential access of
of the community or a society must not be
two different gender classes to communication means,
disturbed. Civic and religious organizations, if taken
yet there is evidence that warning messages are arbitrated
in the loop, can be tasked to build awareness and
through traditional social structures like loud speakers
remind community that the greater the disaster,
and young boys through door to door dissemination,
more the community will have to depend on its own
rather than outside sources. The simple reason for this
traditional approach is because while men are out
Dovetail all social, religious, private, semi
working, mostly the women and children are present in
government and nongovernmental organizations in
their houses. Those who lived beyond hearing distances
planning process. Prepare an inventory of
of the loudspeakers were informed through couriers and
community resources for both people and materials.
Persuade organizations to build up certain useful
Another important aspect in the aftermath of disaster
disaster skills. For example, development and
is losing of livelihood by affected communities. As a
housing industry including local hardware vendors
case study of insurgency in Swat in 2009, livelihood
may develop skills in mass provision of shelter and
which consisted of tourism industry, fruits and
gemstones totally vanished. The inherent characteristics
industry including private entrepreneurship to hold
of the Swat Valley with its rich flora and fauna having
pool of vehicles, farming and agriculture alongwith
enormous potentials for tourism have been restored
local grocers to hold feeding operations and lastly
through community self help basis. Owing to enormous
all local pharmacies alongwith private health
potentials in housing and development sector, the skills
practitioners to act as second line medical response
and expertise of related locals must my fully utilized. It
is the strong will power and resilience of the locals which
The responsibility of collapsed building search and
if exploited through a specially designed national
rescue can be assigned to local building contractors
programme can bring rich dividends.
through community awareness and capacity up
Taking lead from basic philosophy of philanthropists,
it is the religion based organizations that took a lead role
Interpersonal communication skills of people are
in emergency response during Floods 2010 and 2011.
best source to get information about any potential
The Jafaria Disaster Management Cell
disaster risk rather than relying entirely on
Khidmat Trust affiliated with the Jamaat-i-Islami, Al
electronic data. Any effective emergency plan is
Rasheed Trust and Al-Rehmat Trust linked to the banned
based on independent decisions of many to take
Jaish-i-Mohammad are some organizations exclusively
appropriate actions that are more effective when
engaged in charitable activities and programs for affected
communication is enhanced than restricted.
people. The capacity of these groups and organizations to
Lastly, efforts should be made to reach social
raise funds has traditionally witnessed a sharp increase
outcasts, minority groups, disabled and senior
after natural disasters such as earthquakes or floods
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