Pak flood devastation requires an international response
THE devastation that the catastrophic flooding has wrought upon the nation of Pakistan is virtually incomprehensible.
Yet, if Pakistan and the world is to survive this climate change crisis, it must be comprehended and responded to in a coordinated and comprehensive manner.
Federal Planning Minister, Ahsan Iqbal’s initial estimation of the economic losses from the flooding was $10 billion plus.
To date, more than 33 million people have been affected by the flash floods and one third of the country has been impacted.
According to Pakistan’s National Flood Response and Coordination Centre, nearly 1500 people have been killed of which more than 500 were children.
These statistics are stunning. The stories behind the statistics are saddening. The mother and father without a child. Families with no place to live.
Having only memories to hold on to as the places and things that one loved are gone forever.
What brought Pakistan and its people to this staggering and saddening state? And, what should be done about it?
Based upon the information, that I have reviewed the tragic flooding is primarily attributable to two factors: globally-driven climate change and inadequate prior preparation by Pakistan to deal with climate change problems.
Correcting the current conditions, demands a coordinated and comprehensive local and international response.
Let me address each in turn. Julien Harneis, the UN Resident Coordinator termed the floods in Pakistan as a ‘climate-change-driven catastrophe’ and the biggest challenge in decades.
Pakistan Prime Minister Sharif and other governmental officials, in a press conference on 30 August assigned blame to the developed nations for causing the extreme weather sweeping the country and asked them to provide aid to Pakistan to help them combat it.
Even though this year’s August rain, as the Pakistan Meteorological Office reports, were excessively above average, Pakistan experienced serious flooding in 2010 when the then record rains hit certain parts of the country such as Gilgit-Balistan and Kyber Puktunkwa.
Pakistan could have used those flooding events to initiate actions to correct problems that were evidenced more than decade ago but it did not.
Losses could have been mitigated if there were no illegal construction alongside riverbeds and waterways.
The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa River Protection Law of 2002 does not permit any construction within 200 feet of the river.
Going forward, to ensure that a disaster of this type never happens again, Pakistan will need to put the proper national plan in place and have the appropriate level of international assistance.
Given Pakistan’s current political and social strife, it will be difficult to create unity around a national plan but that will be essential in order for Pakistan to confront its climate change dilemma effectively.
A positive sign as a starting point is that the Pakistan government has announced Rs 70 billion to assist each displaced family with immediate Rs 25,000 cash.
On the international side of the equation, there are many reasons for optimism and one area of great uncertainty.
The optimism comes from those organizations that have already stepped forward to provide assistance.
The uncertainty comes from whether the developed nations will make any significant contribution to assist Pakistan in fighting its climate change problems.
Examples of international contributions include: The International Monetary Fund approval of a $1.17 billion relief package.
The World Bank repurposing $ 300 million to help flood victims and support flood relief.
The World Food Programme providing $ 110 million, the Asian Development Bank pledging $20 million, UKAid announced $1.7 million immediately and $ 44.9 million for long-term works; and, the United States Agency for International Development pledging $30 million in humanitarian aid.
The real question remaining is whether the developed nations will sit on the sidelines and get on the playing field to help Pakistan and other developing nations are the victim of climate change globally.
Going into the UN Climate Change Conference (COP 26) held in Glasgow, Scotland in November 2021, poorer developing nations called upon the richer developed nations to provide financial help to help them adapt to climate change.
They came away from that conference with no climate financial assistance. What has happened in Pakistan should be a warning that climate change is occurring more rapidly than anyone expected.
The future for climate change is now. For Pakistan and its people to have the future they deserve, they need an effective national and international response to its devastating crisis. They need that response now.
—The writer is an Entrepreneur, Civic Leader, and Thought Leader based in Washington DC.