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Climate change hits home in Pakistan, causes disastrous floods

Climate experts opine that climate change has caused unpredictable and inconsistent weather conditions in Pakistan resulting in excessive monsoon rains, cloudbursts and extreme melting of glaciers which have finally swelled the rivers which are the genuine cause behind destructive floods across Pakistan

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Floods across Pakistan

Asian countries especially Pakistan, India, China and Bangladesh are under severe monsoon rains since mid of June. Unfortunately, the centre of the relentless spell of rain remained in Pakistan this time. Monsoon during the months of July and August usually causes losses in the form of capital and human lives in Pakistan every year. However, the scale, the torrential rains have wreaked havoc and ravaged parts of Pakistan this year is beyond someone's imagination. The dangerous spell of rain that started in the mid of June is still continued to cause unfathomable destruction and devastation in the most vulnerable areas of almost all provinces of Pakistan.

Pakistan has seen 133% more rainfall this year compared to the past thirty years on average. On average, water inflow in rivers jumps to approximately 570,300 cusecs. As per a general estimation, more than 60% of Pakistan is under water this time. Due to the continual downpour banks of rivers have overflowed which have ultimately assumed the form of devastating and catastrophic floods inundating the towns, cities and villages ruthlessly. The disastrous deluges have pushed thousands of families to abandon their homes and move to safe areas.

In most of the areas, roads have been fully damaged, the supply of electricity has been disrupted and mobile signals have gone because of severe flooding making the lives of people miserable and pathetic. People stranded in inundated areas are not getting food to survive and disruption in the food supply chain due to the complete or partial destruction of roads is further deprecating the already deteriorated situation. More to their woes, a greater number of homes and buildings has been collapsed and submerged and cattle have been swept away. As per the latest reports by NDMA (National District Management Authority) more than 1250 people including 446 Children have died from annihilating floods in the last two months. People whose livelihood was entirely based on agriculture are starving to death because of the destruction of farms. The agricultural lands are presenting a terrible picture of the ocean due to the inundation of flooding water. According to the latest National Nutrition Survey (NNS), people are unfortunately catching diseases including Acute Watery Diarrhoea (AWD), Respiratory Tract Infections (RTI), Malaria, Skin Infections, Snake bites and injuries due to the stagnant filthy water of floods in numerous areas of all provinces in Pakistan.

The areas hit hard by the floods disaster in Sindh province are Karachi, Sukkur, Khairpur, Shikarpur, Ghotki and Jaccobabad. According to Sindh Provincial Disaster Management Authority (SPDMA),1.6 million people have been affected by deadly floods. About 1000 kilometres long coastal belt of Thatta district has been fully destroyed. Around 15500 people lost everything and were displaced.

33 million people affected

In South Punjab, the flash floods areas are Rajan Pur, Dera Ghazi Khan, and Taunsa Sharif where Sulemanki range mountain has drained those regions proving fatal for south Punjab with the tool of more than 40 casualties and humongous loss of property as well. According to revenue officials and reports of flood control centres, the floods submerged 190 Mauzas affecting 412,259 people and damaging 3,957 houses and a 207,372-acre crop area.

Areas ravaged by flooding and rains in Balochistan are Barkhan, Kohlu, Naseerabad, Pishin, Jaffarabad, Lasbela, hub, Jhal Magsi, Kech, Khuzdar, Sibi, Kalat and many others claiming casualties more than 250 along with exorbitant damage to crops and homes. Incessant rains have viciously affected the lives of more than five lac people, exterminated and destroyed 18 bridges and more than 700 km of highway. It also killed as many as 107377 cattle and damaged 23117 houses while 6057 houses collapsed.

In KPK, areas of Swat, Kalam, Shangla, Mingora, Kohistan, and Noshehra have been badly dilapidated by calamitous floodings. Videos doing rounds on social media show hotels, link roads, houses, suspension bridges, hospitals, schools, mini-power stations and water mills have been completely washed away and residents are scrambling to find refuge. As per official data of PDMA, 251 people have died in the floods across KP since June, while more than 19000 houses have also been completely destroyed. According to collected data, 41 schools, 50 hotels and 24 bridges have also collapsed so far.

Accordingly, to official reports by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) more than 33 million people have been badly affected in different ways by the massive floods triggered by torrential rains in the last few weeks. 184,000 have been displaced to relief camps. More than 50,000 have regrettably become homeless by the scourge of disastrous floodings. Some latest reports by the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) reveal that 3000 kilometres of roads have been destroyed across the country and over 495000 homes have been partially or fully damaged. An estimated 100,000 stocks have been lost. Crops over 2 million acres have been destroyed. It is again reported by OCHA that more than 130 bridges have collapsed too by the severe flooding. The debris of fallen buildings has blocked the main avenues which have disrupted the movement of transportation carrying foods and medicines to the flood-affected areas exacerbating the already troubling situation.

The Red Cross Society of China has recently announced emergency cash assistance of $300,000 including 25000 tents and other supplies for the flood-affected people. The European Union is providing 1.8 million Euros in humanitarian aid to the affected families. The United States through the US Agency for International Development will be providing $100,000 in immediate assistance to support the people affected by severe flooding. Amidst this time of affliction and adversity, Uk has also announced to provide an emergency aid of 1.5 million Euros for flood relief efforts in Pakistan. Moreover, the government of Pakistan has pledged to distribute Rs. 37.2 billion as cash relief whereas funds of Rs 5 billion have immediately been released to NDMA in order to accelerate rescue efforts. Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has also announced Rs 25000 cash assistance for the flood victims. It would also compensate the families of the deceased with Rs 1 million along with other support for the injured. 

According to Al-Monitor, the Turkish government has sent seven planes loaded with tents, food, medicines and more to Pakistan so far. Bangladesh is sending a plane with Takka 80 million worth of goods for flood relief in Pakistan. Moreover, the Pakistani expatriate community is also excessively donating in cash or in kind at different flood relief camps across Pakistan.

The rescue and relief operation is underway in the rain and flood-affected areas of different parts of the country. Pakistan Air Force is actively engaged in rescue and relief operations in floods ravaged areas of Punjab, Balochistan, Sindh and KP. According to the latest reports, over 42000 persons have been successfully rescued from flood-hit areas while medical treatment has been provided to more than 73000 affectees. About 100 camps are functional for flood affectees in order to provide them with necessary facilities. Restoration and rehabilitation activities have also been launched at full scale by the district administrations in all provinces.

Now the question is that what has led to the catastrophic floods in the country?

Climate experts opine that climate change has caused unpredictable and inconsistent weather conditions in Pakistan resulting in excessive monsoon rains, cloudbursts and extreme melting of glaciers which have finally swelled the rivers which are the genuine cause behind destructive floods across Pakistan. Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD) reported that Pakistan’s climate patterns have changed over the last three decades just due to the greater variation in westward spatial climate shift. It further states, that during summer the land is hotter as compared to the sea so the wind blows and carries moisture from the sea to land as a result heavy clouds are formed which later on resulted in floods.

Climate change is a reality

The above-discussed scenario raises another question how can we control these cataclysmic floodings?

First of all, what we need to do is to accept climate change as a reality. While taking it seriously, we have to reduce carbon emissions as maximum as possible by sagaciously shifting to renewable sources of energy. The second best solution to these problems is the plantation. Planting trees like eucalyptus and mangroves at a massive scale near rivers and canals are very helpful as they protect us from such floods, tidal waves and tsunamis. Third, to cope with the devastating floods constructing more dams, reservoirs, dykes, and alluviums are even indispensable in order to escape from impending disaster. Fourth, our poor disaster management should also be made efficient, active and well trained in order to deal with contingent flood-like situations. NDMA must be given enough funds for its proper working. Fifth, there must be a better drainage system for the smooth flow of water. It will be better if flood drains are built. Canals drain, and conduits must be cleaned and freed from the garbage. Sixth, encroachments on the banks of the rivers must be stopped. No construction should be allowed in such vulnerable areas. Finally, there must be an ample investment in hydropower projects. That is the least which might protect us from such natural calamities.

(The writer is a Pakistan-based geopolitical analyst. Views are personal. He can be reached at waseemshabbir78@gmail.com)

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