A Monsoon Catastrophe

Sep 10th, 2014 | By | Category: Pakistan

Pakistan is highly vulnerable to devastating climate change, but the matter is at the lowest priority for the government. For the last three years, the country has topped the list of the worldwide Climate Risk Index measured by German Watch, an organisation that works on world equity problems. 

In the past few years, Pakistan has been hit by massive floods and was listed among the top countries laid low by climate change in 2010. The last three years’ reports suggest that Pakistan has remained among the top three countries that are highly vulnerable to calamities resulting from climate change. Once again the country has been heavily hit by sudden floods due to torrential rains across Punjab and Kashmir recently.

A recent detailed BBC report focusing on climate change in Pakistan draws attention to certain patterns, including irregular rainfall, acute increase in temperature and unpredictable changes in the weather. The Climate Asia report determined that 54 percent of individuals across Pakistan said that quality of life had deteriorated in recent years. People in Pakistan have much lower faith in the government when it comes to coping and managing crises during such natural calamities. 

Historically, Pakistan has been hit by 21 major floods over the past several decades, which caused severe human, financial and infrastructure loss. Faced with such devastating impacts of floods, one may assume that the country now has a comprehensive disaster management plan that can handle such natural calamities. However, it is criminal that no plan is seen as yet. 

Pakistan’s metrological department has warned that the contiguous river system that links the fates of both Punjab and Sindh is likely to see, in the coming days, a knock on effect of the ongoing floods in the northern parts of the country. Until now torrential monsoon rains and flash floods have already taken over 170 lives across the country. A statement issued by the meteorological department has warned that water levels within the Indus River at Sukkur and Guddu Barrage area unit are continuously increasing, and consequently, there will be severe floods during the second week of September in both provinces.

The tributary damp current from the Arabian Sea additionally lost its strength. The system is probably going to dissipate in the coming days. However, before that it is expected to provide another phase of widespread rains, with isolated serious falls over the higher catchments of Jhelum, Chenab, Ravi and Sutlej rivers, besides Rawalpindi, Gujranwala and Lahore urban centre divisions. Other reports from within the country have predicted vast losses to property, cattle and crops, particularly in the Sialkot and Gujranwala regions, because of the swelling of nullahs and high water-level in Chenab and Jhelum rivers.

The department has advised the government to carry out necessary rescue measures. The monsoon rains have affected everyone across the region, from people in the cities where roads and low-lying areas have submerged and property damaged to villages where people, livestock, crops and property have been impacted.

Climate change is best explained scientifically as a process that has become a serious challenge that is already progressively affecting humans. Scientists and climatologists have warned that it would alter physical resources immensely, making disaster-prone parts of the world nearly dilapidated. This will essentially result in mass migration by people due to extreme weather patterns.

The danger to Pakistan from climate change is greater among poorer people, jeopardising food assets, health and livelihoods of the poor. Poverty is closely linked to the consequences of floods experienced every year. Again, the slum dwellers living near river banks are the hardest-hit. The government has seen such calamities in the recent past but has not learnt enough to amend policies for dealing with natural calamities.

Several scientists have expressed concern that such an extreme level of disasters may lead to great losses via flooding owing to climate change phenomenon. Local and regional factors like equivalent topography may exacerbate the intensity of the floods in some areas. According to health experts, vector borne diseases like viral infections, dengue, typhoid fever and cholera that are already a major cause of mortality and morbidity in Pakistan are climate sensitive and known to thrive in flood affected regions.

The economic value of the disasters is gigantic. For a fragile economy that depends heavily on agriculture – and since the farming sector employs many – the massive floods destroy not only major crops of the season but also giant parts of arable land. And so the capability of various farmers to cultivate crops within the coming season is also affected.

Pakistan should use a contemporary approach to tackle what’s going to be a daily incidence of climate patterns. It is time to rethink previous flood management approaches use modern ways to mitigate the risks involved.

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