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Catastrophic Floods Kill Over a Thousand in Pakistan
Usually, the monsoon arrives in July. But this year, large parts of Pakistan began seeing heavy downpours as early as mid-June. Since then, the rainfall has been relentless.
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Even though I have been away, the climate crisis hasn’t. In fact, it has reared its head in most parts of the world. Drought in Europe, heat waves and drought in China, floods and wildfires in the USA, floods in New Zealand, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Repeat after me: Climate change is not a problem of the future. It is here. It is all around us.
Floods in Pakistan
Severe floods have devastated many parts of Pakistan in the last two months. They have been described as the worst in a decade. 937 people have died, and 30 million people (that’s almost 15% of Pakistan’s population) are living without shelter.
Usually, the monsoon hits Pakistan in July. But this year, large parts of the country began seeing heavy downpours as early as mid-June. Since then, the rain has been relentless.
The damage caused has been extreme. The government has declared a state of emergency, and the minister for climate change Sherry Rehman, has described the situation as “a catastrophe of epic scale.”
Almost a thousand people have been confirmed dead. The death toll will likely increase as rescue operations reach remote areas impacted by the flood.
The floods have also caused widespread damage to infrastructure, crops, and livestock. Over 3,000 kilometres of roads have been damaged and 145 bridges destroyed. 6.7 million houses have either been destroyed or damaged. Almost 8 million livestock have perished. While the extent of damage to crops is yet to be ascertained, there is no doubt that it is severe.
Since June, Pakistan has received almost twice the rain it usually receives in this period. While the floods have impacted all states, the southern states of Balochistan and Sindh are the worst hit.
It is well documented by now, perhaps doesn’t need repeating and should probably start adorning some t-shirts and tattoos: Human-induced climate change has made extreme weather events more frequent.
That is precisely what is happening in Pakistan. Climate change has made the monsoon more erratic and more intense. It has also started reaching areas that it historically did not reach.
Ghulam Rasul, a meteorologist at the World Meteorological Organization, told Arab News that this monsoon has been unusual from the start as it arrived several days before the normal onset date.
“It attained its peak in July, which normally occurs in August, and heavily penetrated monsoon shadow zones, including Balochistan and the high mountains of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Gilgit-Baltistan, where it usually does not reach,” he said.
Rasul added, “Due to global warming, the frequency of such intense monsoons will increase.”
Pakistan is one of the countries most vulnerable to climate change. Its lack of governance capacity, limited disaster response capabilities and a slacking economy only worsen the problem.
There is no respite in sight for the next few days. The Pakistan Meteorological Department has forecast more heavy rain in large parts of the country. It has also warned citizens about the prospect of flash floods and landslides.
If you are so inclined, here is a list of relief organisations and NGOs you can donate to help those impacted by the floods.
Afghanistan flash floods
Pakistan’s western neighbour has been suffering one disaster after another even as conflict continues, the economy collapses and millions edge towards starvation.
In June, Afghanistan was hit by an earthquake measuring 6 on the Richter scale. It killed over a thousand people and destroyed thousands of homes.
Now, the war-torn country has flash floods to contend with. Parts of eastern, southern and central Afghanistan have seen torrential rain in the last few weeks leading to the floods.
The Taliban has said that over 180 people have died due to the floods, and over 3,000 houses have been damaged. It has appealed to the international community for financial assistance. The Taliban has cited a lack of funds as one of the reasons for its inability to provide adequate assistance.
The global food security crisis
It is only getting worse. Food price inflation continues to keep a nutritious meal unaffordable for millions of people around the world. A World Bank analysis shows that almost all developing countries are seeing inflation rates above 5 percent, with several countries in the double digits.
While the global Food Price Index has declined from its highs around April after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, it remains much higher than pre-pandemic levels and higher than last year.
The number of acutely food insecure people worldwide has tripled in three years since 2019 – from 135 million to 345 million.
Even as some grain is shipped out of Ukraine after a prolonged blockade by Russia, there are growing concerns over the next year's harvest in large parts of the world.
Here is where you meet the climate crisis once again. Weather impacts around the world – ranging from droughts to heatwaves to floods – are threatening the next harvest.
To add to woes, the increase in the price of fertilisers has meant that farmers have had to use them more sparingly. This could also potentially impact yields next season worsening the food security situation.