The writer is an
analyst and the
President of All
The citizens of Pakistan, are paying the price in their lives and livelihoods for the industrialization of rich countries that has resulted in this climate change. The extreme flooding has killed more than 1,160 people, many of them children. The impact of the heavy monsoon rains which began in mid-July 2022 is drastic, affecting 33 million including approximately 16 million children – have been affected in 116 districts across the country, with 72 districts being hardest hit, and one-third of the country is still submerged. The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) estimates damage to more than 5,000km (3,100 miles) of roads, 10 million houses partially or fully destroyed, and the death of 700,000 livestock, often people’s only livelihood. The southern province of Sindh remains the worst affected. As of August 30, NDMA said at least 405 people, including 160 children, died there. More than 14 million people in the province are badly affected, of which only 377,000 are living in camps right now. The southwestern province of Balochistan – Pakistan’s largest by area but also the most impoverished – is also reeling. More than nine million people were forced to leave their homes, but only 7,000 have been provided accommodation in camps. The country has experienced 190 percent more rainfall than average from the beginning of June to the end of August. As the Indus River swelled from the steady precipitation and glaciers melted, low-lying areas were devastated. The ground was dry and loose from record heat, causing landslides across the country. Rainfall picked up even more which became the wettest on record since 1961. The provinces of Baluchistan and Sindh saw rainfall of 410 percent and 466 percent above average, respectively, from early June to August. Pakistan generally gets three to four cycles of monsoon rains, this year we have received eight already and there are predictions that rain will go on till October which is extremely unusual. Some major rivers have breached their banks and dams overflowed, destroying homes, farms, and critical infrastructure including roads, bridges, schools, hospitals, and public health facilities. 30 percent of water systems are estimated to have been damaged in the areas impacted by the floods and cases of diarrhea and water-borne diseases, respiratory infection as well as skin diseases have already been reported.
Pakistan is vulnerable to the effects of climate change which has occurred due to the rapid industrialization of rich countries with substantial geopolitical consequences. Pakistan is responsible for less than 1% of the world’s planet-warming gases, European Union data show, yet it is the eighth most vulnerable nation to the climate crisis, according to the Global Climate Risk Index. Pakistan, one of the world’s lowest emitters of carbon dioxide per capita, was suffering the heaviest consequences of climate change, due to the cost of the rich and developed countries’ development. It’s paying a hefty price, not only with lives but destroyed schools, homes, economy, and infrastructure. The stark inequity of the climate crisis, which is bearing down hardest on nations that have historically had the least to do with causing it, is raising questions over who should pay for it, particularly for the damage that countries like Pakistan are coming to terms with. Thousands of acres of farmland are underwater, and aid workers are struggling to reach isolated communities. What lies ahead is food shortages affecting villages and cities alike. Sindh’s agricultural economy has totally collapsed, almost half of our cotton crop is destroyed and rice has also been damaged. Pakistan’s now drowning, as this year, economic and political crises have converged in the South Asian nation of more than 230 million, as food and fuel prices soared, now reeling from the worst floods in living memory. Pakistan needs $10 billion to rebuild, unlike in 2010, global conditions are very different right now. The United Nations issued an appeal for $160 million in emergency funds barely enough to scratch the surface of the $10 billion needed. Much of the global aid momentum is focused on Ukraine and many developed countries are themselves facing economic crises at home, which might mean that Pakistan will have less international support than it did in 2010. Economic costs from the combined impacts of the disaster-climate-health nexus estimated by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UN-ESCAP) show that Pakistan will have the highest losses as a percentage of GDP at 9.1 percent, followed by Nepal at 8.7pc and India with estimated losses equaling 8.1pc of its GDP. In absolute terms, under the worst-case scenario, Pakistan is set to record the highest average annual loss at $26bn. In South and Southwest Asia, the total average annual loss is estimated to be $161 billion in the current climate condition. This estimate increases to $217bn under the moderate climate change scenario and to $322bn under the worst-case climate change scenario, says UN-ESCAP report. These devastating scenes and eye-watering recovery costs are what the climate crisis looks like at 1.2 degrees Celsius of global warming since industrialization. But the world is on track for warming of more than 2 degrees Celsius, analyses show, and scientists warn every fraction of a degree of warming will worsen the impacts of the crisis. The developed world agreed more than a decade ago to transfer at least $100 billion a year by 2020 to developing nations to help their transition away from fossil fuels, but also to help them adapt to climate change. That amount has never been delivered in full. More controversial is the issue of who should pay for the destruction. At the COP26 climate talks in Glasgow, the US was one of several advanced nations that showed opposition to obligatory payments for loss and damages essentially climate compensation, particularly for schemes based on historic responsibility. The immense volume of rain- and meltwater inundated the dams, reservoirs, canals, and channels of the country’s large and highly developed irrigation system.
The extreme flooding has killed more than 1,160 people, many of them children, affecting 33 million including approximately 16 million children – in 116 districts across the country, one-third of the country is still submerged. The NDMA estimates damage to more than 5,000km of roads, 10 million houses, and the death of 700,000 livestock, often people’s only livelihood.
The perilous humanitarian situation is expected to continue to worsen in the days and weeks ahead as heavy rains continue in regions already underwater. WHO’s immediate priorities are to rapidly expand access to essential health services to the flood-affected population, strengthen and expand disease surveillance, outbreak prevention, and control, and ensure a well-coordinated response at national and subnational levels, including the involvement of all relevant partners. In order to minimize future climate change, International efforts to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases in the developed world should be increased. The UN, UK, and EU should continue to stimulate this within their member countries and should improve efforts to stimulate the US to join the Kyoto agreement and commit itself to future targets. If the developed countries are doing more to reduce their emissions, rapidly developing countries are much more likely to join mitigation efforts. Getting developing countries to commit to mitigation is very important because reducing future emissions of India and China is essential for slowing future climate change. In developing countries, a lot can be done in terms of mitigation without slowing down the economy; especially in terms of increasing energy efficiency, reducing deforestation, and improving efficiencies in agriculture. It is also important that developing countries are stimulated to choose a sustainable, low-emission development pathway. The UN, US, UK, and EU should take a much wider approach to stimulate sustainable development in these countries. These mechanisms should not be used as a new instrument for protectionism but should stimulate more environmentally friendly production. Reducing GHG emissions should be integrated into the next round of trade negations and the WTO should also acknowledge to the role of trade in causing and preventing dangerous climate change. Also in the least developed countries, there are options for mitigation but they should not focus on the energy or transport sector only but on agriculture and forestry as well. First of all, new mechanisms should be developed in such a way that the protection of forests can be paid for through well-constructed carbon markets. The UN, US, UK, and EU should actively support post-Kyoto mitigation options in reducing deforestation and or forest conservation. This can be achieved by combinations of higher commitments, imposing limits, or by designing an independent mechanism, committing developed countries to both national emission reductions and supporting reductions abroad. The UN, US, UK, and EU should actively support increasing scientific knowledge on climate change impacts and adaptations in developing countries and improve capacity building on climate change adaptation, and should support more collaborative research projects in order to enable knowledge-based adaptation and facilitate knowledge exchange in a science and policy dialogue between developed and developing countries. To increase investment in disaster preparedness and disaster risk reduction, investing before disasters is much more efficient and saves considerable spending on emergency aid.
According to WHO, the Government of Pakistan is leading the national response, including declaring a state of emergency in affected areas, establishing control rooms and medical camps at the provincial and district level, organizing air evacuation operations, and conducting health awareness sessions for people who are now at increased risk of waterborne and vector-borne diseases, as well as another infectious disease such as COVID-19. Flood management strategies must be reoriented to become more robust and climate-smart. The first order of business is that we must protect our community and not grant permits that allow construction on river banks, or river shoulders. There is an immediate impact on destroyed food crops, homes, roads, and livestock. This affects both people who are directly impacted by the flood by wiping out their household wealth, but also people in major cities by increasing the cost of food. Pakistan faces a very difficult winter ahead as it will need money for a nationwide rebuilding effort post-floods, meeting the demands set up by the IMF program, competing with Europe to secure gas imports, and cushioning the impact of increasing food inflation. But the biggest challenge is if flooding such as this years becomes a regular feature rather than a one-off. The worst-case scenario would be if we get multiple kinds of floods we had this year plus the riverine flood together. The devastation would be unimaginable. Pakistan is a developing country where sooner or later, water scarcity issues will prevail throughout the country if more dams are not constructed. International Commission on Large Dams has reported that Pakistan has 150 water reservoirs. These water reservoirs are 15m in height. The largest dam in Pakistan is Tarbela, which is an earth-filled dam situated near the Indus River in KPK. But the country does not have enough water storage capacity for the future. The ongoing situation in the country can be evaluated as we only have 10% water storage capacity and it is decreasing due to siltation. On the other hand, the world has a 40% capacity. Pakistan losses $12 billion annually due to mismanagement of water management strategies. The situation is getting worse with every passing day as the country has only 30 days of water storage capacity compared with the US, which has 900 days of storage. According to International standards, a country must have 120 days of capacity, and we are not meeting or even close to that. And when it comes to the construction of dams, Pakistan faces political challenges in that too. The fact is; that if more dams are not constructed, water scarcity will cause extreme damage to our agriculture sector. As a result, unemployment and hunger will prevail in the country. Currently, we are witnessing the worst flood in the history of the country, billions of rupees of properties have been destroyed just because of the negligence of the government and authorities. In addition, the tourism industry has been seriously damaged, if this situation continues and no dams are constructed, then we will soon be lost all of our fertile lands. On average, a dam costs around the US $14 billion to construct, and right now, we are not in a state to raise billions of dollars. All this could have been stopped if our leaders and politicians had made a strategy and followed some planning. PM Shahbaz Sharif along with the top leadership of PDM must sit down with former Prime Minister Imran Khan to find a way to address the woes facing flood victims. It is imperative that political warmongering stop and priorities be adjusted to face the daunting challenge of rebuilding.