Climate change is causing a rise in global temperatures which in turn is increasing the moisture the atmosphere can hold. This is resulting in heavy rains and floods which are wreaking havoc on communities and are resulting in a number of problems — contaminated water supplies, displacements, diseases, inability to farm, commuting disruptions, and death.
Climate change has become a major global concern, particularly in developing countries most vulnerable to flash flooding due to the high concentration of buildings and population.
On Thursday, Pakistan declared a national emergency as heavy rains triggered flash floods and wreaked havoc across much of the country, killing at least 903 people and leaving about 50,000 homeless – making it the worst flood in the country in more than 30 years.
According to the Federal Minister for Climate Change, Sherry Rehman, in a press conference, the situation is a “climate-induced humanitarian disaster of epic proportions”.
Comparing the current situation with the devastating 2010 floods earlier this week, she said the current situation was worse than that as the water is not only flowing from the north as in 2010, but it is equally or more devastating in its sweep and destructive power.
The minister also said the country had so far received an average of 166 millimeters of rainfall during the month of August, which was 241% above normal, whereas its southern parts, particularly Sindh, got 784% more than the normal average rain of the season which was alarming.
In a separate statement, Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Marriyum Aurangzeb on Thursday also termed the ongoing flood situation a national emergency, adding that at this critical juncture, there was a need to show national spirit to deal with the situation of extraordinary disaster in Sindh and Balochistan.
She asked the entire nation, especially overseas Pakistanis, to donate generously to help the flood victims as a huge amount of money will be required for the rehabilitation of the victims due to the large-scale disaster.
Implications of the floods in Pakistan
As the days go by in Pakistan, more rain is predicted to hit the country in the coming days and increase the overall vulnerability of communities, especially urban areas.
Death tolls will rise especially in low-lying areas with poor structures that aren’t built to withstand such events.
Sadly, slum communities will be worse off because they are at major risk of drinking polluted water when there is flash flooding. With freshwater becoming polluted due to poor sewage and sanitation systems, there will also be a growing increase in diseases like dysentery and cholera.
Coupled with that, slum communities are often too poor to rebuild damaged properties and businesses after being hit by flooding — leaving them homeless and without a livelihood.
Even crops won’t be spared because, as the flooding increases, food crops will get washed away and lands that were once fertile will become barren. This will have a severe impact on food production and jeopardize food security.
Salvaging the situation
The Pakistani government must prioritize and improve disaster risk management as well as effective and timely response mechanisms to protect communities and help them become climate resilient.
Also, comprehensive policy changes and enforcement around sewage networks, waste management, and infrastructure is a sure path to climate resilience and disaster risk management. For example, ensuring that new development takes place away from the most at-risk zones through risk-sensitive land-use plans will reduce Pakistan’s vulnerability in the long term.
The public and private sectors must collaborate to address these issues with the aim of efficiently reducing the economic, social, and environmental costs of floods.