Heatwave hazards | By Muhammad Zahid Rifat


Heatwave hazards

PAKISTAN was most affected due to regional greenhouse emissions (GHGs). Pakistan has less than one percent GHG emissions but the developed world has neglected the country despite its increased burden on natural disasters.

Pakistan has seen as many as 152 extreme weather events in the past 20 years. The United Nations (UN) has put Pakistan among the top 23 most drought-hit countries and is among the top ten affected countries due to climate change.

Heat-wave in almost all over the country has spiked up and gained longevity, the glaciers in the north are melting rapidly because of prolonged and extreme temperature spike in the country.

Pakistan is in the grip of severe heat-wave for the last couple of months and traditionally spring months of March and April have been turned into the hottest months in the most parts of the country.

March 2022 remained the hottest recorded month since 1961. During the past two months or so, people in both India and Pakistan have experienced levels of heat higher than national and global records.

Meteorological Department of Pakistan has already hinted at current heat-wave persisting till June 2022.

Pakistan thus has entered for the first time into the summers without any spring season and if adequate measures for appropriate preparedness were not taken timely then it may occur again in the next year due to global warming.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has constituted a Task Force on Climate Change in view of the country’s currently facing heatwave and melting of glaciers.

The Task Force so formed has been tasked to develop a comprehensive strategy on a priority basis to mitigate the effects of climate change in the country and to prevent incidents such as the glacier incident in Hunza.

Quite appreciably, the Prime Minister has directed all concerned ministries and agencies concerned at the federal and provincial levels to take immediate measures for preventing food and water shortages and ensure conservation of water and forests in the country.

Pakistan is the third most water stress country in the world and most unfortunately its status is gradually shifting from water stress to water scarce nation which will obviously have huge adverse impact on the country.

A recent glacial lake outburst flood (GLOF) incident occurred due to melting glacial lake formed at Shisper Glacier that partially damaged the Karakoram Highway.

According to the figures available from official sources there are 30-31 potential lakes to outburst out of 3044 total serious glacial lakes.

Shisper glacier was formed in 2018 which is a surging glacier which was visited by some senior officials in February 2021 to observe the situation.

First warning for GLOF at Shisper was received on March 16. If there has been no life and livestock losses reported, this was mainly due to the early warning and preparedness by the agencies concerned in Gilgit-Baltistan and Hunza.

Federal Minister for Climate Change Senator Sherry Rehman along with senior federal and provincial officials concerned as well as the Chairman of the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) highlighted various aspects of the onrushing climate change, global warning and prevailing heat-wave in most parts of the country while addressing a news conference some days back in Islamabad.

A Ministry of the Climate Change senior official said on the occasion that in Pakistan, the scientific models predicted for 2030 have already started activating 10 years prior to the projected timelines.

It is good to note that in view of prevailing severe heat-wave in most parts of the country, Federal Ministry for Climate Change has already established more than 1000 heat-wave centres each in Sindh and Punjab provinces and the Ministry was also issuing advisories to the provinces in this regard regularly.

Way back in 2015, an extended heat-wave in the sub-continent had resulted in more than 2500 deaths in India and over 1200 casualties in Pakistan mostly in Karachi,.

According to Climate Change’s 6th Assessment Report, cities like Karachi in Pakistan are most likely to experience conditions equivalent to 2015 heatwave on a basis of 1.

5 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial levels, the goal for limiting global warming under the 2015 Paris Agreement.

Population density, the scale of economic activity and rapid urbanization in the region all make the Indo-Pakistan more vulnerable to extreme weather events, according to the weather and global warming experts.

Heat-waves are prolonging periods of excessive heat with temperature more 10 degrees higher than normal.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), exposure to high level of heat can cause exhaustion, heat stroke and hyperthermia.

Deaths or hospitalization are likely to occur either immediately or after some days of exposure which can also worsen chronic illnesses including cardiovascular, respiratory and diabetes-related conditions.

The human body has limited ability to adapt to heat-wave like temperatures, a term that accounts for both heat and humidity, around 95 degrees Fahrenheit are considered the upper limit that human beings can survive above which prolonged exposure can prove fatal, the experts have duly warned.

Save yourself and your families from heat-wave hazards, take preventive measures, avoid avoidable and non-essential exposure in excessive heat and remain alive and healthy while praying to the Allah Almighty all the time for the safety of all around you, in the country and the world as good natured Pakistani human beings.

—The writer is Lahore-based Freelance Journalist, Columnist and retired Deputy Controller (News), Radio Pakistan, Islamabad.