Compiled By Tanweer Ahmed
With nearly a million people displaced and countless casualties, floods in Pakistan have devastated the region. At least 1.2 million people were affected by flood-related incidents alone with more than 1,500 deaths reported so far as the country received abnormally heavy rain in mid-June, and, by late August drenching downpours were declared a national emergency. The southern part of Indus river became a vast lake. Villages have become islands, surrounded by putrid water that stretches to horizon. More than 1,500 people have died in this disaster, which is expected to take months to recede completely.
From tropical storms to heat waves and floods, climate change is making extreme weather events more common and more severe around the world. Scientists have known this for years. As the science of attribution advances, researchers are now able to study specific events on a more granular level, describing how each storm might have been impacted by greenhouse gas emissions. This technique allows us to understand the influence of global warming on severe precipitation like that caused by hurricanes Florence, Michael and Olivia during the past few weeks — and gives evidence for action in climate policymaking.
While climate scientists cannot attribute any single extreme event to climate change, they have seen many indicators pointing to a warming world. Recent floods are one such indicator. Earlier this year, Marc Levy examined the relationship between flood-prone areas in Pakistan and rainfall over two hundred years’ worth of data. He found that the intensity of today’s floods is comparable to earlier deluges but that what’s different is their frequency: “The probability of a very high flood occurring over an area has increased because there has been so many more ‘medium-sized’ floods.”
Scientists have warned for decades that some kinds of extreme weather are becoming more frequent and intense as more heat-trapping gases get pumped into the atmosphere. As the planet warms, more water evaporates from the oceans. Hotter air also holds more moisture. So storms like those that come with the South Asian monsoon can pack a bigger punch.
Climate action needs regional and international approach for collective and shared solutions of the problems. The environment cannot be broken into blocks of an electoral cycle or even countries’ borders. Before Covid-19, much of the social sector was ignored not only in Pakistan but in most developing countries. Health, education, environment, and climate change were not given due priority. The post-pandemic global order is primarily driven by ecology-centric policies. The regional and multinational approaches enable the practitioners of ecology to adopt a international institutionalist approach to solve the issues.
The international institutionalist approach has increased the responsibility of international institutions to take the lead in fight against global warming and climate change. The World Bank gave Pakistan 120 million during the Covid-19 era when Pakistan announced the “Green Stimulus Program” which could help generate jobs for people.
However, Pakistan’s problem won’t be solved as it faces direct threat of devastation across every spectrum. Pakistan mainly depends upon the Indus Basin Irrigation System. Indus River and its tributaries provide surface water to the Indus basin.
Glacial and snowmelt and monsoon rainfall are important sources of water flow in the Indus basin. Approximately, 180 billion cubic meters of water is provided by the Indus Basin of which 165 billion cubic meters come from western rivers like Indus, Chenab, and Ravi and 15 billion cubic meters come from eastern rivers. Another important thing is that surface water withdrawal is 128 billion cubic meters whereas groundwater withdrawal is around about 52 billion cubic meters.
According to a report, irrigation canals consume 90% of water, and the remaining is diverted to industrial and domestic sectors. Sadly, the per capita water storage capacity of Pakistan is 150 cubic meters which is less than India, China, Morocco, and the US. Additionally, Pakistan’s capacity to store water in the Indus basin is confined to 30 days only.
The current situation is a disaster in making. It will create food scarcity, viral diseases and irreparable damage to infrastructure and logistics. It will lead to increase in poverty and inequalities in society. How would Pakistan tackle these issues remains to be seen but one thing is for certain, without international community Pakistan won’t be able to address these issues.