Climate change: Brewing challenges for Pakistan | By Syed Qamar Afzal Rizvi

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Climate change: Brewing challenges for Pakistan

PAKISTAN is experiencing abnormal monsoon rainfall nearly ten times higher than usual, resulting in uncontrollable urban and flash floods, landslides, across the country.

Gaining a full picture of the scale of the disaster is difficult as many affected areas remain inaccessible due to inundated and damaged road networks.

Natural hazards in Pakistan are likely to increase as a result of climate change and environmental degradation.

More extreme weather events, coupled with poor preparedness in communities, can only increase the risks of humanitarian disasters.

A comprehensive rehabilitation strategy is required to counter the current crises. The World Bank in its report published in October 2021, ‘’South Asia Climate Change Action Plan 2021-25’’ said, ‘’ Pakistan is increasingly exposed and vulnerable to various natural hazards, particularly floods, cyclones, droughts and earthquakes.

Combined with these vulnerabilities, disasters have caused significant loss of life, economic damage and reversal of development gains over the past 15 years.

Pakistan is also exposed to rising sea levels with a projected increase of 60 centimetres in mean sea level by the end of the century’’.

This trend is affecting the rural communities along the coast in addition to harming coastal ecosystems such as the Indus River Delta, which is losing its sedimentation at the rate of one millimetre per year.

The agriculture sector continues to face increased risks from both long- and short-term climate variability, including extreme events such as floods and droughts’’, the report added.

Veritably, the adverse effect of sea level rise on the Pakistan coast is expected to be pronounced in the Indus Delta.

Topographically it is a tidal flat zone. A sea level rise of about 2 metres is expected to submerge or sea encroach an area of about 7,500 sq km in the Indus Delta.

The low-lying areas along the Baluchistan coast may also exert a significant effect. Against this backdrop, the humanitarian situation in Pakistan has deteriorated further over the past two weeks as heavy rains continue to cause flooding, and landslides resulting in displacement and damage across the country.

Sixty-six districts have been officially declared to be ‘calamity hit’ by the Government of Pakistan – 31 in Balochistan, 23 in Sindh, nine in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and three in Punjab.

The situation remains dynamic, and many more districts have been affected; the number of calamity-declared districts is expected to rise as rains continue to fall.

The adverse weather conditions have incurred significant human and livestock casualties and widespread damage to private homes and public infrastructure, especially in Balochistan, Sindh and the KP provinces.

The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) reports some 33 million people in Pakistan being affected.

As of 25 August, Pakistan has experienced 375.4 mm of rainfall – 2.87 times higher than the national 30-year average of 130.8 mm.

These rains have primarily fallen on Balochistan, Sindh and parts of Punjab, with Balochistan receiving five times its average 30-year rainfall and Sindh receiving 5.7 times its 30-year average.

One important aspect of the current crises is the environmental changes that affect the climate of the South Asian region, the speedily melting of the Himalayan glaciers is an important cause of the ongoing catastrophe in Pakistan.

Despite the fact that Pakistan is a lowest CO2 emitter in the region, It’s facing the most fatal consequences of the climate change effects.

Pakistan has been in the midst of a terrible heatwave, with the temperatures in parts of the country exceeding 120 F.

April was the hottest month in the past 61 years, until May came along and saw warmer temperatures.

Pakistan should treat these climate disasters as a full-fledged national security emergency before they stoke conflict that adds further stress amid the country’s other numerous challenges.

Pakistan has tried to play a significant role on the international stage, participating in COP26 and signing the global methane pledge.

The country is one of the world’s major methane emitters, predominately through its agricultural sector.

How this commitment will impact this sector more broadly remains to be seen, especially as Pakistan seeks international financing to meet this commitment.

While climate-smart agricultural practices generally save money in the long run, it is important to understand how these changes would impact large-scale farmers and their workers, the latter of whom are one of the most economically disadvantaged groups in the country.

The International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC) and Red Crescent (RCRC) is assisting the Pakistan Red Crescent in its response to the worst floods in a decade, which have destroyed homes, crops, livelihoods and infrastructure and leaving millions vulnerable.

Almost a thousand dead including children, as ravaging floods displace over 3.1 million people while damaging more than half a million homes in multiple districts across the country.

In addition, almost 710,000 livestock have been lost, and thousands of kilometres of roads and bridges destroyed.

The floods are causing an earthquake-like destruction. Undeniably, a community’s ability to prepare for and cope with natural hazards can prevent disasters and save lives.

Though our defence forces have played a heroic role in relief and rescue operations, monitoring, forecasting and early warning of natural hazards in Pakistan needs to be sufficiently matched by disaster risk reduction (DRR) measures to equip communities with the knowledge and skills they need to protect themselves.

Pakistan’s annual Plan 2022-23 — which was prepared focusing on issues of growth with stability, energy, water, food, people centric security, human development, social services and strengthening the federation—may now face great difficulties owing to the sacristy of funds.

Despite the fact that the IMF has approved and 1.17 b loan package for Pakistan, Pakistan still needs big foreign donations in order to counter the current challenges.

UN Resident Coordinator Julian Harness said on Tuesday that the flood disaster in Pakistan is beyond imagination, the international community should show solidarity for Pakistan affected by climate change.

According to the government estimate, ‘’the current relief operation needs Rs 80 billion’’ and hundreds of billions of rupees are also required to overcome the losses as well as for rehabilitation of the victims.

—The writer, an independent ‘IR’ researcher-cum-international law analyst based in Pakistan, is member of European Consortium for Political Research Standing Group on IR, Critical Peace & Conflict Studies, also a member of Washington Foreign Law Society and European Society of International Law.

 

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