Pakistan inundated by unprecedented floods | By Tariq Aqil

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Pakistan inundated by unprecedented floods 

THIS year Pakistan has been in the vicious and cruel grip of the biggest deluge of water never seen before in the country’s history.

This downpour of the monsoon season has caused death destruction and misery of huge proportions.

The infrastructure all over the country has been severely damaged, agriculture has suffered a huge set-back, businesses have been destroyed and the negative impact on the economy is yet to be calculated.

Destruction on this monumental scale has set back the national development gains of many years and the country is now lagging behind the sustainable development goals.

The present natural calamity is far more serious and severe than the flood of 1973 or the more recent 2010 flood.

All these extreme weather patterns are definitely the result of climate change and Pakistan has been included in the top ten countries to suffer the consequences of climate change.

This calamity should serve as a wake-up call for the present and future governments.

Of the country to take the necessary steps and precautions to mitigate the severe impact of climate change and minimize any damage to the community and the infrastructure of the nation.

The government alone cannot deal with the calamity of such proportions and should appeal to the community of nations through the UN to garner at least a hundred million dollars for immediate relief and rescue operations.

National and international NGOs will have to extend a helping hand as now the country known for resilience against floods is saddled with the scourge of Covid-19, economic pressures, rampant inflation, political upheavals, food shortage and price hike never seen before.

National and international news channels are replete with tragic and heart wrenching reports of misery and destruction from the flood affected areas of all the four provinces.

Government agencies, relief organizations, philanthropists, politicians and social workers have all cried out in sheer helplessness to do anything for the affected communities because of the torrential rains causing severe disruption in communications.

Losses are still being calculated but so far over 1500 people have lost their lives including 300 children and thousands others have been injured.

According to the statistics released by the NDMA over four million people that is one fourth of the population in 116 districts out of 160 districts have suffered the impact of the flood and over half of them are now in flood relief camps after losing their shelters to the rising waters.

Most affected by this deluge are in urgent need of shelter, food, medicines and other essential items like tents, utensils, blankets and beds.

Over seven million houses have been destroyed and three thousand kilometres of roads and 145 bridges have been partially or totally damaged.

The massive floods have washed away over two million acres of crops and killed over 794,000 cattle, causing the loss of livelihood and food.

The people have lost their belongings – even food stocks – and savings as water swept away their homes and villages.

The agriculture, agri-business and other sectors of the economy have been damaged, and this will cause further economic slowdown.

The damage and loss suffered by the country due to this natural calamity can only be met nationally and internationally and the rehabilitation of the victims must be attended to immediately.

This is a full blown humanitarian crisis never seen before and it becomes all the more serious considering the present economic and political crisis in the country.

The need of the times is that the nation should unite leaving political differences aside.

Federal and provincial governments have to act in tandem, they cannot respond all alone even if they mobilize all their resources.

All the social workers, philanthropists, NGOs and international relief agencies, leaving their political interests aside, will have to join hands to take the country out of this grave and disastrous humanitarian crisis.

The next phase of this crisis will be the rehabilitation and rebuilding phase which will be a truly daunting and gigantic operation.

The resources required for this project will be far greater than any previous floods rehabilitation project.

Immediate response to the current tragedy is definitely top priority at the moment but the country needs immediate planning for the future as from now on the country and the nation will definitely encounter the effects of climate change every year.

The government needs to approach the Climate Adaptation Fund and other climate financing international agencies to make up for the losses and damage to the infrastructure.

At COP26 in Glasgow in November 2021, it was decided that besides reducing their carbon emissions and reaching net zero by 2050, rich countries which are big polluters would provide climate finance to those countries which are facing heavy losses and damages in disasters and hazards caused by climate change.

Coordinating the delivery of emergency aid and collection of donations, having plans ready before hand, bringing all the involved stakeholders on board; ensuring the proper operation and maintenance of irrigation structures; creating but also strengthening the existing ones; operating and maintaining organizations for disaster preparedness, relief and recovery are all facets of governance.

—The writer is Professor of History, based in Islamabad.

 

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