Subh-e-Nau Magazine

Settling our lands with indigenous plantation as natural defenses against earthquakes, floods and landslides   

More than thirteen years have passed since the tragic 2005 Northern Pakistan earthquake, while environmental degradation, especially in the form of mass deforestation continues to this day. How can afforestation help make Pakistan a safer place to live in?  

On October 8, 2005, a mass tragedy engulfed our country with the Northern Pakistan earthquake striking Muzzafarad at the epicenter leading to mass displacements, casualties and injuries. With more than 75,000 dead, 3.5 million displaced and more than 100,000 injured, our existing system collapsed under the weight of such a mega disaster. Pakistan was completely underprepared to deal with this tragedy both in the short and the long term.
After more than thirteen years into this debacle, the pertinent question that arises is: Are we ready if another such earthquake strikes? The short answer to this question is a resounding ‘No’. Surely, in the wake of the disaster, the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) and Earthquake Response and Rehabilitation Agency (ERRA) happened, which are improvements. However, they only are reactive agencies who have done literally nothing on the adaptive or mitigation side of improving the past and present situation. Besides facing many corruption and other charges due to foreign funding flow, our agencies are mired in such controversies rather than attend to preparation and disaster readiness.
As a present day crisis, Kashmir is more deforested than ever. The amount of casualties in Kashmir and surrounding regions, near the epicenter of the earthquake, were the heaviest in this disaster. Natural defenses in the form of forests were slaughtered to a mere 10% from 42%, while “development” completely ravaged the countryside. The rapaciousness is not limited to forests but also by destroying hills for extraction of mineral resources. The impacts of both these actions have left the entire region defenseless against earthquakes.
As a nation, Pakistan has been subjected to large scale deforestation, not just on land – but also to marine forests which comprise mainly of mangroves. The current and pathetic amount of forest cover is a mere 2% against a required 25% for a healthy environment. To make matters worse, there are no replacement strategies, and these precious and vital being has been reduced to a declining resource rather than being viewed as a respected part of our very survival and well-being.
The survival of mankind depends on trees, forest resources and the related water cycling that Nature provides. The amounts of benefits that forests and green cover provide are innumerous and vital in a very wide range. This starts with initiating the food chain cycle via photosynthesis, releasing life giving oxygen for healthy breathing, acting as deterrents to topsoil erosion and as watersheds, providing shelter with shade from excessive heat while sustaining a rich amount of living organisms along with the inestimable aesthetic value.

Earthquake defenses

While many such benefits from forests have been fully realized and understood, the multifunctional aspect of forests are becoming even clearer in the wake of natural disasters. Recently, Japanese researchers Akira Izumi and Takashi Omura working on Earthquake disasters have verified that the high functionality of the forests in preventing damages during earthquakes. The findings are based on the Great Hanshi-Awaji earthquake, the Nankai-Tounankai earthquake resistant investigation, a large earthquake that occurred at Chuetsu, Niigata prefecture.
Similarly, the 2005 Indian Ocean tsunami which lashed with all its fury on the coastlines of countries could have been soothed by mangrove forests, which have protected such regions from coastal calamities in the past (See Box, “Missed lessons before the earthquake”). These gifts of Nature not only enrich local communities with nutrition and life, they are natural buffers efficiently dissipating the energetic impact of high speed winds and large scale waves on oceans and lands alike.
Similarly, on land, forests provide a natural dampening effect against seismic waves by diminishing the effects of topsoil erosion. The resulting “tightening” of the top layer by trees provides a considerable defense against uneven movement of tectonic plates. Trees also act as flexible and additional structures that absorb seismic waves. Hence, forests strengthen the capacity of the surface layer to absorb the full impact of an earthquake. In addition, forests, by this virtue, also prevent landslides and mudslides, as the ground is firmly attached to hundreds of thousands of roots, forming a tight network in keeping the soil at one place. While the epicenter of the earthquake also impacted the Indian held side of Kashmir, the impact was far less. Why so?
The sad part about Azad Kashmir, which once formed a considerable contributor to Pakistan’s forest cover has been the unchecked and unmitigated rape of the forests by the so-called ‘timber mafia’, which continues to this day. As a measure of the brazenness of this greed, the amount of forest from 1947, which was 42% of the land cover, has reduced to a mere 10%. The whole desolate and barren land, therefore, stood defenseless against the approaching calamity. The resulting landslides, due to “liquefaction”, which happens when wet sediments which are not secured by vegetation, are dangerously weakened by the strong shaking, thus causing major damage after an earthquake. This was seen very vividly in this calamity, as landslides led to create further death, terror and destruction.
In contrast, India has enough environmental and social consciousness to replace each tree that is cut. There are no such measures taken by our government, or the environment ministry for that matter, which is a plausible reason as to why the losses were so heavy on the side of Pakistan.
The natural beauty and immeasurable environmental value of Northern Pakistan has been rendered vulnerable to earthquakes by impacts in other ways as well. This digging and drilling of hills for mineral resource extraction has led to destruction of natural distribution of stones as well as introduces cracks and crevices into land. Such activities reduce and weaken the resilience towards earthquakes, which such natural endowments provide. The building of houses on top of mountains proved to be a deadly combination in this regard, as entire villages were decimated as a result. By treating hills as pure economic resources reduces their multifunctional utility which is the ability of absorbing and damping seismic waves.
With natural disasters becoming increasingly frequent in the South Asian region, interest in maintaining forests for the environmental services they provide is increasing. As such, in various countries across  Asia, with greater incidence of earthquakes, floods, droughts and landslides are leading to policies and actions regarding stopping of deforestation, sustainable maintenance and growth of forests.

Defense from landslides

Landsliding is one of the most prevalent hazards in the Himalaya and can be particularly devastating when it occurs adjacent to human settlements and infrastructures, such as towns, roads, bridges and utilities. Landsliding is common in the Himalaya because of the active seismicity, great relief, heavy monsoon rains, and accelerated erosion due to deforestation and construction.
The 2005 Northern Pakistan earthquake was the deadliest in recent history of the India subcontinent with the loss of life is mainly attributed to collapsing structures due to poor building materials and architectural design. The devastation was also exasperated by the many thousands of landslides that were triggered by the earthquake, which resulted in thousands of direct fatalities.
Most scientific studies have shown that most of the secondary landsliding in this event occurred on slopes along roads and/or rivers, that report more than half of the earthquake-triggered landslides are located along rivers and roads. Undercutting of slopes by river erosion and human activities such as road construction, deforestation, terracing, and agricultural activities are the main reasons for these secondary failures. To prevent such failures in the future it is imperative that action via indigenous plantation be taken now.  
In regards to landslides, trees and forests have a great potential in their prevention, and as such, are becoming more significant first line defenses due to sloping areas in Asia being developed further coupled with increased impacts due to climate change. Moreover, the roles of trees and forests in rehabilitating landslide affected areas are similarly important because water resources and water quality are adversely affected in the wake of these disasters.
Backed by scientific studies, the crucial role of trees and forests is highlighted in preventing landslides, not only by strengthening and drying soils but also in directly obstructing rock falls  and smaller slides and. The role of trees and forests in relation to deep seated landslides is considerably less although soil drying by tree roots can still help avoid excessive soil water pressures.
Tree planting on susceptible slopes and riverine banks can reduce risk while natural regeneration and tree planting on failed slopes can help control landslide after effects such sediment release into rivers. Indigenous fast growing trees and shrubs are best suited. In plantation projects plantation of trees in landslide susceptible riverine ban areas can be done by involving local stakeholders in Muzaffarabad in a Community-Based Disaster Risk Reduction (CBDRR) approach via plantation activities and capacity building efforts.

Defense from floods

With the ability to absorb and hold large amounts of water, trees are a natural defense against floods. A single tree can absorb up to 100,000 liters of water in a twelve-inch flash flood, which speaks volumes about how a forest or trees planted at riverbanks can provide cover against the excessive spread of water.
As a leading means towards dealing with a disaster, Pakistan has a simple, yet effective means towards a flood defense – yes, it may take some time for the saplings to reach the capacity to act as buffers, however, if their plantation is delayed, the procrastination will only create further disasters in the making!
This is a vital ingredient that the country needs to actually survive and no amount of individual psychological musing can delude this reality. Communities and groups of individuals, as well as the government have to bear responsibility towards a moral and ethical calling, which is to think beyond one’s selfishness.
Appalling as the deforestation rates and figures are, there is also very little action taken towards plantation schemes, even when considering this as a strategy to avert disaster. Such moves are called “mitigation strategies” which are all but missing in out disaster management plans. These are, unfortunately, mostly towards reacting first, responding inadequately, and partially rebuilding until all the funds are spent inefficiently or lost due to embezzlement. Till this date, the Billon Tree tsunami scheme is the only worthy effort by any government.
Thus, plantation with indigenous species is a healthy start as the basic building up of defenses against flooding. The emphasis on indigenous species is crucial, as exotic trees have only destroyed our local ecosystems – the example of Paper Mulberry in Islamabad can make you sneeze at the very mention of its name, I am sure! As such, these efforts can be within the reach of Ministry of Forestry and can be seen as agroforestry initiatives, which are gaining ground rapidly, due to the lack of food and environmental degradation due to deforestation.
Due to climate change caused by global warming, it makes all the more sense to plant trees, as they at least lower local temperatures as a result. Most importantly, trees and vegetation absorb the leading greenhouse gas, Carbon Dioxide, as a part of their natural means to produce food. Thus, they are natural remedies against the human created gases that are wreaking the world and causing all kinds of cycles and weather patterns to go haywire as a result.

Don’t forget our Glaciers 

Pakistan must also invest in proper conservation strategies towards stopping the rapid glacier melting that is happening in the North. After the 2005 Northern Pakistan earthquake, artificial lakes were formed due to the pressure caused by larger amounts of water released in the Indus as a result.
With more than half of the water coming from glaciers, the river Indus in the 2010 flooding also packed an unbelievable amount of destructive power due to glacier melting. I covered this topic in Subh-e-Nau monthly as a cover story in April 2006, and wrote an award-winning article on glacier melting in November 2009 before the formation of Lake Attabad, pointing out to the dangers caused by glacier melting and flood events.
While the media covered mostly the monsoon as a trigger point for the 2010 flooding, many experts and officials, even the Minister Hameed Ullah Jan Afridi quoted the glaciers and their rapid melting due to global warming, as a heavy contributor towards the massive power of the floods.
In this regard, heavy monitoring of the glacier regions by National Disaster Management Authority alongside the Ministry of Environment with allied departments and relevant ministries should take place – proper research into ways towards alleviating this melting should also happen alongside. Without taking the glacier melting and climate change into account, we are inviting trouble, or at least being ignorant about a very sizeable aspect of possible flooding in the country.
The plantations in the flood-affected areas need to be food related, as in vegetables and trees that bear fruit. Such a mentality may go against the feudal grain, in particular regions under their control; however, the time is ripe towards empowering the farmers and rural dwellers to grow their own and save themselves and the nation from flooding. Why not allow them to plant and farm along the riverbanks?
With the provision of green cover and a food source, access to basic health services in rural regions is an area, which the Ministry of Health and all allied ministries must work on. A key area to consider is the provision of potable water and access to proper hygiene facilities as a solid starting point towards building a healthy rural population.
Without clean water and worse still, with polluted and infected rivers as sources, the health impact on the rural population is already devastating – the flood is wake-up call to address these issues of basic concern.
The high incidences of diarrhea and other communicable diseases points to the importance of provision of clean water and proper access to hygiene and sanitation, as basic rights that should be provided also as a means to create disaster resilient communities.
These groups can then deal with flooding on a much more solid basis – solar disinfection techniques can play an affordable and efficient role in providing clean water, especially in the rural regions of Pakistan. Climate change is no friend here, either – due to increased local temperatures, the spread of diseases is also part and parcel of this danger. Hence, provision of clean water is the clear need in this age of hotter weather, especially in countries like Pakistan.
Further, the provision of health education including hygiene training is also necessary towards behavior changes that allow for hygienic practices if a flooding disaster strikes.

Focus on disaster prone areas

Governments in this past two decades, have still taken little or no notice to cure this downward slide in deforestation in the northern regions, especially the plunder of Azad Kashmir – this ultimately and tragically contributed in increasing the death toll as well as decimating entire villages in its path. The “Billion Tree Tsunami” of the present government is a worthy project which should be prioritized in regions of the prone to disasters such as flood, landslides and earthquakes. 
Many Asian countries, owing to the pursuit of economic efficiency in many industries, have devastated forests. This has not only reduced the vitality of rural areas, but has also tended to increase disaster damage these areas. Additionally, this has had an adverse impact on urban areas in the form of flooding and other disasters.
In summary, with climate change and changed weather patterns causing havoc and disasters like flooding, Pakistan must choose a natural path of defense against these juggernauts. Cost-effective and simple strategies have proven to be effective and can save lives from future calamities if they head this way.
To mitigate the impact such disasters in the future, we should, therefore put an end to deforestation at all costs – not only at land but also on the coastlines so that we have resurrected the natural defenses which were senselessly lost in the decoy of so-called “development.”

Missed lessons before the earthquake

Prior to the 2005 Northern Pakistan earthquake, the Indian Ocean tsunami happened earlier in the region killing more than 250,000 people. Subh-e-Nau Monthly covered this issue and I advocated the need to have a proper disaster management plan in place. In the cover story, “The Indian Ocean Catastrophe: Our own ugly creation”, published in February 2005, I highlighted that it was actually the lack of mangrove forest cover which was one of the main factors which to such a huge debacle. These were cut down, despite warnings from experts, to serve the tourist and shrimp farming industries. Pakistan should have noticed and implemented a disaster plan then based on this huge lesson. Despite our call for such practical implantation, instead, our authorities attended a single conference on disaster management a month before the fateful 2005 earthquake struck.
Writer: Prof. Farrukh Chishtie

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Protecting the “Softies”   

While the common perception regarding animals is that they are hardy, this is further than the truth, especially for certain types of species. 

When someone is to be compared with strength or for courage, the usual choice is a wild animal with similar attributes, on the assumption that since they live in the forest, face odds like hunger, drought, freezing cold, relentless deluge, scorching heat and fight off enemies, they must be really strong to withstand any suffering; but it is not so.
All wild animals suffer from pangs of starvation; go without water-for only a limited period, and die of diseases like other mortals. Many are immune to various pathogenic bacteria that would effect and kill the susceptible ones (e.g., the wolves or jackals are immune to the organisms that will kill the gazelles, deer or nilgai) but there are softies too which need utmost care in their upkeep in captivity.
I have not yet come across any scientific book that deals with these problems. This article, though by means exhaustive, deals with some touch­and-go species that are usually supplied by smart guys under one pretext or the other. Since no wild animal is now cheap or easily replaceable, it will be helpful to relevant people.
The worst in the list is the scaly ant-eater, once found in and around Karachi only up to thirty years from now. They are still alive and people do bump into them, once in a blue moon.
For explanation I will relate my experience.
People used to ring me up for having discovered a very fearsome, scaly animal, which hides his head between his legs and rolls into a ball. Women and children are afraid of it because of the horrid appearance, unlike any known animal.
Some were shot dead because they have terrible claws, etc.
I am mentioning this toothless, defenseless, burrowing animal because it is again likely to be brought to the zoo for being sold for exhibition. Since it is nocturnal, moving only undercover of darkness, smelling ants in mounts or holes, and consuming this difficult diet (which is impossible to be procured by our zoos), it should not be kept.
Out of pity, I fed one with milk, egg flip with a dash of formic acid, which is the nearest diet to its staple menu but I was never sure it was relished or consumed. The poor captive, in fact, survived on his fat, did not drink or got any exercise. He died a miserable, silent death without a whimper (he had no voice either).
I have seen nocturnal animals being kept in day-night enclosures in Frankfurt zoo where they used one-side glasses for the visitors to see but inspite of all know-how and facilities, several factors worked against them. It is no good forcing the wild animals to change their instinctive behavior to earn money; it is selfish. Training them is tolerable.
I had brought half a dozen green snakes from Sri Lanka for exhibition. They looked great — thin, immobile, almost invisible, when perched or coiled in greenery. They just refused to touch any food, lived on their fat and died. (They eat caterpillars, crickets, etc.).
Dr. Gardiner Bump a biologist from Fish and Wildlife Department, U.S.A. donated four snow cocks to the zoo. These lovely, delicate birds, acclimatized to live in freezing temperature just refused to eat any food in the USA as well, under the best living conditions, in the research station and in a similar climate in the USA. The difference must have been the right food.
Snow Leopard is rare all over the world and keeping it alive in captivity is as big a headache as keeping the teddy bear or Giant panda. Lahore zoo is keeping it in an air conditioned room, further cooled by ice slabs but it is just cruel to experiment keeping wild animals which are hard to acclimatize or those that cannot be provided with the right food or the habitat.
I purchased a yak that was brought down from Gilgit for being sold during Eid, but for all three years he remained with me, he was in utter desperation.
South American monkeys are no exception. They are lovely to look at but they do not survive well without the leafy diet. They are exceptionally short-lived and a clear waste of money.
Although no animal has been created to live outside its own habitat but man has done a great deal of work to make it possible. A zoo-raised lion, for example, will die of hunger if released back in its original habitat but the softest of all is the familiar darling of children — the ostrich. It is gullible, a simpleton, a stumbling bum who refuses to learn. He will eat lethal objects and kill itself. The obvious solution is to watch it like a grown up child. There is no other way. My ostriches lived well with me for about two decades, which is the normal span of life for them in a mediocre zoo like any in Pakistan.
So, why confine these softies? In fact, a hardy Rhino can get killed when kept wrong. London Zoo killed their healthy elephant within an hour by making him live in a badly designed enclosure. Our reptile house in Karachi is another classic example of how to turn the “hardies” into “softies”.
Writer: Dr. A. A. Quraishy

Articles

10 Common Household Hazards which could be Extremely Dangerous to Children

All responsible parents are cautious when their kids are outdoors but they often overlook the basic safety rules at home. Here are some key safety tips for your young ones.    

We usually do not pay attention to several potential hazards which could cause a serious injury or death to a child at home. Falling objects, poisoning, burns and electric shock injuries are also common in adults but young children are the most vulnerable to these hazards. Here is a list of hidden risks in common household things with easy and practical safety solutions to keep your children safe at home all the times:

1. Bathroom

The first thing that comes to your mind when you think about personal hygiene is your bathroom. Nevertheless, it also is a part of your house with several hidden hazards.
Hazards: Slippery floor, bathtubs, scalding hot water and risk of infections are potential bathroom hazards.
Safe Strategy: Here is how you can minimize the risk of injury in a bathroom:
  • Keep your bathroom floor dry. Use mop and wiper to drain water after taking shower.
  • Always supervise your children until they are old enough to stay safe in a bathroom. Children under 6 should never be left alone in a bathtub. Several children have been drowned in their bathtubs during unsupervised showers.
  • Never fill a bathtub with just hot water or open hot faucet. Always run cold water tap first followed by the hot water to get the right bathing temperature. Teach your children the same safety rule.
  • Remember! Babies and toddlers have very sensitive skin which is more susceptible to burns. You may find 42°C shower comfortable but 35°C to 38 °C is a safe temperature range for bathing small children.
  • It is highly advisable to adjust your water heater thermostat to 50°C or ‘Warm’ setting to minimize the risk of burn injuries.
  • Frequently wash your bathroom, sink, toilet seat and towels. A damp towel hanging in the bathroom is a perfect breeding site for dangerous bacteria.
  • Train your children to wash their hands every time after using the toilet.

2. Tipping Furniture

It is a common household hazard which poses more risks to small children than adults. A few simple safety measures can effectively eliminate this risk.
Hazard: Children love to climb furniture like a dressing table, a closet or a TV table etc. Furniture with a high center of gravity is more likely to tip over when it is pulled away from the wall. An average adult may walk away with a minor injury but even a small dressing table tipped over children could result in serious injury or death since they are small and they cannot lift it off without help from someone else. 
Safe Strategy: Luckily, the safety solution to this hazard is very simple and practical. If you do not need to remove the furniture like it is a bedroom wardrobe or a TV table, then you should anchor it to the wall using screws. Just drill a few holes into the wall and fix the furniture by tightening the screws. For portable furniture, use removable straps to anchor it to the wall. These straps make the furniture ‘tip over proof’ and can easily be unbuckled it when you need to move it.

3. Medicines

Keeping a well-stocked medicine and first aid boxes at home is a very good idea to be emergency ready. Nonetheless, improper usage or storage of lifesaving medicines could result in a life threating medical emergency.
Hazards: Children cannot differentiate between food and medicines. A curious child may eat a colorful pill or capsule by mistaking it for a sweet candy which could prove lethal. Taking wrong medicines/dose due to illegible prescription is another common risk.
Safe Strategy: Keep all the medicines out of reach of children, preferably in a locked cabinet. If you must keep medicine in the refrigerator, you can either choose to use a child-proof lock on it or put the medicine in a secured box first before storing it in the refrigerator. Always follow the instructions on prescription. Make sure to ask the pharmacist if the medicines match with the prescription. It is also safe to read the label on the drug to take the right dosage.

4. Household Cleaners

Dishwashing, toilet and laundry cleaners are extremely hazardous. They need to be carefully handled and stored in a safe and secure place.
Hazards: Domestic cleaning products can cause chemical burns to skin and severe eye irritation and respiratory inflammation. Accidental ingestion of any of these chemicals is a life-threatening medical emergency. They can cause severe and permanent damage to the human body.
Safe Strategy: Always follow these safety rules to protect your family from hazardous household chemicals:
  • Keep all chemicals in a locked cabinet out of reach of children.
  • Never store flammable liquids near stoves or ovens in the kitchen.
  • Do not use toilet cleaning chemicals when there is a child in the bathroom. These cleaners release toxic fumes which are extremely hazardous for small children.
  • Never use a soft drink or water bottle for dangerous chemicals. These bottles are not only unsuitable for chemicals but it also increases the risk of accidental ingestion.

5. Food

A human basic need can sometimes cause serious illness. In 2015, the World Health Organization’s first ever global report of food poisoning revealed that children under 5 accounts for almost one-third of total deaths.
Hazards: Bacterial contamination is the leading cause of food poisoning followed by chemical contamination. Food processing in unhygienic conditions and improper storage increase the risk of food spoilage. Bug killer sprays, cleaners and other toxic chemicals can also turn food into deadly poison. Eating with dirty hands is also responsible for stomach infection in adults and children.
Safe Strategy: You can stay healthy by following these simple food safety rules:
  • Always wash your hands with soap before eating or food preparation.
  • Educate your children about hand washing as early as possible.
  • Cooked food should ideally be consumed fresh.
  • If you must refrigerate it, here are a few things to remember:
  1. Make sure to consume your leftover within 4 days after refrigeration.
  2. Never refrigerate reheated leftover food
  • All perishable food items in the fridge could be spoiled if power outage exceeds 3 hours. No refrigerator can maintain a safe temperature for more than 4 hours without power.
  • Avoid packing a lunchbox with perishable food. Children leave school early and eat lunch 4 – 5 hours later. This increases the risk of food poisoning in school children because perishable food should be consumed within 2 – 3 hours after packing.
  • Never use any insecticide spray near food. Make sure to cover all edible things before using bug sprays.
  • Always keep food covered to prevent contamination.
  • Never store any detergents, cleaning chemicals and other toxic items near food.

6. Kitchen Counter top

 

Kitchen is perhaps the most dangerous room in the house. It should be declared ‘restricted area’ for small children to protect them from serious injuries.
Hazards: A kitchen is a home to several hazards – fire, boiling liquids, sharp knives and harmful chemicals to name a few.
Safe Strategy: Babies and younger toddlers should be banned from entering the kitchen. You can ask another family member or a friend to supervise your kid(s) while you are working in the kitchen so they do not follow you to a danger zone. You may allow older children into the kitchen but only if they are old enough to understand the risks. However, children below 14 should never be left unsupervised in a kitchen. Keep sharp kitchen tools secured in a child-proof drawer. Always turn cooking utensils handles away from the front of the stove so they do not get knocked off the stove. Do not enter a kitchen while holding your baby. It is safer to leave him/her in a baby coat outside the kitchen.

7. Plastic Bags

Polythene shopping bags are not only injurious to animals and the environment but they are also dangerous for young children.
Hazards: Plastic bag can kill a child by suffocating him/her.  Infant and toddlers can roll over and get entangled in a plastic grocery bag left in their room. They can pull a bag over their heads and suffocate after they get panicked and are unable to get it off.
Safe Strategy: Make sure to properly dispose of plastic bags after use. Never put any plastic bag or a sheet near an infant’s bed. Plastic garbage and dry cleaning bags should be kept in a child-proof cabinet when not in use. Never leave any sort of plastic bag in a child’s crib. You should not cover children’s mattresses or pillows in plastic bags.

8. Electric Appliances

Electricity is a very good servant but a dangerous master. It can make our lives easy but it can also kill us in a matter of seconds if we are not being careful.
Hazards: Even a low-voltage (100V – 240V) electric shock can result in cardiac arrest leading to death. Toddlers are unaware of hidden risks and they are more likely to be killed by a low voltage electric shock than adults. Extension cords, power sockets at floor level and other electric appliances like electric iron, portable heater and table fans are potential electrical hazards for kids at home.
Safe Strategy: Here are a few ways to child-proof your electrical appliances:
  • Do not leave your small children alone and educate them about the risks of electricity when they are old enough to learn.
  • You should either close the floor level wall socket if not required or replace it by a childproof socket.
  • Invest in a child-safe extension cord and keep them away from cribs and kids play area.
  • Never leave a hot electric iron on the floor to cool it off. It can seriously burn your child if s/he touches it for a second.
  • Do not allow your small children to recharge their battery operated toys.

09. Toys

Children love to play with toys, yet many of them contain hidden hazards and they are known to cause too many life-threatening injuries.
Hazards: An airsoft gun is the most dangerous toy. Air gunshots have known to cause serious ocular injuries resulting in partial or complete loss of vision. Chocking on toys is another common and potentially dangerous hazard.  It happens when a young child tries to swallow a small object and it gets stuck in the windpipe and s/he stops breathing.  Some toys contain small batteries cells which are even more hazardous because they can cause caustic burn in esophagus and stomach.
Safe Strategy: Here is how you can protect your kids from toys related risks:
  • Look for labels that give age recommendations. You should never buy your 3 years old child a toy which is designed for 5 years + age group.
  • Supervise and educate your older child not to share his/her toy with a younger sibling.
  • Children under 10 should never be allowed to use an airsoft gun. Also, educate them not to shoot human and animals, the guns should only be used for target shooting while wearing safety glasses.
  • Broken toys should immediately be disposed of as your child may get hurt by stepping on sharp edges of a metal or plastic part.
  • Pay attention to battery operated toys; do not allow your small children to replace/recharge their batteries. There is a risk of electric shock or battery explosion if they insert the battery in the wrong position.

10. Guns

There is nothing wrong to own a gun for self-defense if you have a valid arms permit. However, owning a gun requires you to be a responsible citizen.
Hazards: There are two major risks with guns which could easily kill your child at home:
  1. Accidental gun discharges injure/kill a bystander
  2. A child gets a loaded gun, mistaking it for toy and shoot him/herself or another person/animal
Safe Strategy: Gun-owning parents need to be very careful. A small mistake they make with guns could prove deadly. Here are a few safety rules to consider:
  • Always keep your arms and ammunition in a locked cabinet where children and unauthorized persons cannot access it.
  • A biometric safe is a perfect solution which can be unlocked in a few seconds making it possible for you to quickly retrieve it but nearly impossible for a child to get his/her hands on a loaded gun.
  • If you must carry a gun in a car, it should be concealed in a secured holster out of reach of children.
  • If there is a bullet stuck in the barrel, unload the gun, and have a qualified gunsmith fix it. Do not attempt to remove the bullet yourself. Several people have been shot while fixing their jammed guns.
  • Always unload the gun before cleaning. Make sure you do not have kids around while working on firearms.
Writer: Sultan Kiani
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