Monsoon rainfall and glacial melting in Pakistan

Caused flood of epic proportion, death and destruction

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By Latheef Farook

Heavy rains over the past two months, triggered by unprecedented monsoon rainfall and glacial melting, caused flood of epic proportion in Pakistan. It has killed so far more than a thousand people, destroyed hundreds of thousands of homes and millions of acres of crops, washed away roads, crops, infrastructure and bridges and affected more than 33 million Pakistanis.

Nationwide Rainfall has been nearly three times higher than the average and in the worst hit areas such as Sindh province, more than five times higher. Southern, southwestern and northern Pakistan have been the hardest hit by the floods, which also isolated the regions from rest of the country.

Tens of thousands of families have left their homes to safer places, moved in with their relatives, or to state-run camps, while others have been spending nights in the open, waiting for help including tents, food and medicine.

According to preliminary estimate, the flood has caused more than ten billion dollars in damage. Pakistan has appealed for international help and some countries have already sent in supplies and rescue teams.  The scale of the human suffering currently taking place in Pakistan is unimaginable

“We are suffering from it but it is not our fault at all,” Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif told journalists   at a press conference.

“We are dealing with a situation I have not seen in my life,” Sharif said. “More than one million houses are damaged or destroyed. Seventy-two districts of Pakistan are in calamity and all four corners of Pakistan are underwater and more than 3,500km [2,175 miles] of roads have been washed away. Around one million animals have died.

It is the toughest movement in the history of Pakistan.  Planning and Development Minister Ahsan Iqbal   said: “People are enjoying their lives in the west but someone here is paying the price

Environment Minister Sherry Rehman, described the flooding a ‘climate catastrophe’ and said “the south Asian nation was ‘paying the price’ for western use of fossil fuels.  Relentless rains added to accelerated glacier melt in Pakistan’s mountains causing a climate induced humanitarian disaster of epic proportions.

Sherry Rehman, added that towns had become “oceans and rivers” but, due to climate heating. She expect the country to go straight into a drought in upcoming weeks. “We are on the front of unfolding climate catastrophe.”

Rehman said Pakistan was responsible for less than 1% of global greenhouse gas emissions. “Our footprint is so small … There are countries that have got to become rich on the back of fossil fuels and let’s be honest about this,” she said. “Now the time has to come to make a change and we all have a role to play but they have a greater role in this climate catastrophe.”

According to reports a third of Pakistan was underwater due to an extended spell of heat waves- a key symptom of global warming which scientists have been warning the world for decades.  Pakistan with lowest carbon footprint, and already suffering from economic crisis before floods, has blamed developed world and called for international help.

According to reports it might take five years to rebuild and rehabilitate the nation, while in the near term it will be confronted with acute food shortages.    

Though the authorities put the death toll at 1000 the real figure may be much higher.

Pakistan is responsible for only a small fraction of a single percentage point when it comes to historical global carbon dioxide emissions, but it is among the countries most vulnerable to climate change wrought by pollution.

One report asked “if millions and billions could be poured into wars that kill and destroy, the world can also find funds to restore and rebuild. The cost of the climate crisis must not be for the most vulnerable countries to bear alone.

The natural disaster Pakistan is facing is not an outcome of its policy options but a consequence of choices made by others. It has a right to some form of reparations given the sheer cost of what it is being forced to bear stated a report.

Devastating floods came amid a deepening economic crisis. Pakistan’s government remains weak and its legitimacy in question.

Forty percent of its 230 million people faced food insecurity in 2020, yet only 8.9 million families received assistance to mitigate the impacts of rampant inflation. Poverty is concentrated in rural areas, particularly hard hit by the floods.

A report in the local Pakistani media pointed out that part of the blame,   for example, for not doing more to mitigate the effects of climate change — may lie with us, but it is unfair that our people are once again paying with their lives, homes and livelihoods for the damage wreaked on the global climate by much larger, far more industrialized nations, while the latter bear few of the costs for their rapacious activities

It is also unfortunate that even the material aid that has been sent so far remains inadequate by the more proactive nations seems quite underwhelming given the scale of the disaster that it is meant to ameliorate.

The challenges faced by the global economy may be one of the reasons why some otherwise responsible nations have been slow in their response to Islamabad’s requests for assistance. It is hoped that politics is not among those.  

Meanwhile U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres who plans to visit the affected  areas this week said  “as we continue to see more and more extreme weather events around the world, it is outrageous that climate action is being put on the back burner as global emissions of greenhouse gases are still rising, putting all of us—everywhere—in growing danger”.   “Let’s stop sleepwalking towards the destruction of our planet by climate change. Today, it’s Pakistan. Tomorrow, it could be your country.”

Flood-affected people stand in a long line for food distributed by Pakistani Army troops in Rajanpur on August 27.
Asim Tanveer/AP
A man pours out water in a flooded area in Charsadda, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, Pakistan on Aug. 28. Hussain Ali/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
A displaced family wades through flooded area in Jaffarabad in Pakistan’s Southwestern Baluchistan province-AP photo /Zahid Hussein.
Flooding in Mingora, a town in Pakistan’s northern Swat Valley, follows heavy monsoon rainfall on Aug. 27.
Abdul Majeed/AFP via Getty Images
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Caused flood of epic proportion, death and destruction - Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Latheefarook.com point-of-view

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