Amal Hanif – Junior Executive Hiba family Resource Centre
Makeshift, worn out tents dot the streets. Helpless souls watch the gushing floods sweep away possessions they once held dear. Children wade through the murky water in search of something to eat. Some individuals still trapped on their rooftops await to be rescued. Everyone’s hard earned savings have turned to rubble. Collectively, they’ve lost over a thousand loved ones to the tumult and devastation.
From Charsadda to Larkana, 33 million Pakistanis, accounting to 15% of the population, have been affected severely by the ongoing floods in the country.
These floods are a depiction of how frail our infrastructure is and how vulnerable scores of people are. The heavy downpour has devoured entire villages, over a hundred bridges and thousands of kilometers of roads.
But, this is just the tip of the iceberg if we continue refusing to pay attention to climatic concerns. Climate change is banging at our door. It has already begun to lead to unavoidable damage which is only expected to increase in the future.
When monsoon first hit Pakistan, in the middle of June, Pakistan’s National Disaster Management Authority reported that it had brought 133% more rainfall than the annual average. Sherry Rehman, the climate minister, stated the country was going through its eighth cycle of monsoon: “while normally the country only has three to four cycles of rain.”
According to the Climate Change Risk Index 2021 by NGO German Watch, Pakistan contributes to less than 1% of global emissions however is amongst the most vulnerable to climate change.
Gaunt and massive, Pakistan’s 7253 known glaciers are melting at the fastest rate in human history. Lakes forming within these glaciers trigger flash floods. Since 1988, the snowline in northern Pakistan has receded by 1.1 kilometers; what scientists and glaciologists thought was impossible in 1000 years has happened in 30.
ENDEVR’s documentary raises concerns, if global emissions stay at current levels there is a threat to the water supply of 2 billion people across South Asia and future generations may never witness ice in this region.
Keeping all climate related challenges and concerns in mind, Pakistan is required to adapt to and develop its infrastructure so that it may withstand such human-induced climatic disasters. While our governments are needed to play an active and bold role to tackle this obstacle, the citizens at a personal level must pledge to take small steps against this battle.
Some steps Pakistan’s government has to take to reduce the level of the destruction:
- Pakistan has the lowest tree cover in the region giving it more reasons to reforest. A billion trees were planted between 2014 and 2018 at a provincial level. Such tree planting schemes must be continued at a larger scale across the country.
- Large scale floodgates and dams could aid in reducing the level of damage caused.
- Massive underground rainwater retention tanks should be constructed to decrease the intensity of floods in urban areas.
- Regular cleaning of sewage systems can help keep them unclogged, allowing the rainwater to flow smoothly during the rainy season.
- A dense network of shelters, early warning systems, increased communication and evacuation plans can save human lives. Bangladesh is an excellent example to take inspiration from. The country has managed to reduce cyclone related mortality by more than a 100 fold over a period of 40 years.
Some achievable ways you and I can make a difference:
- Transport accounts for around a quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions globally. It’s best to carpool or make use of public transport, if available. For nearby trips, one can definitely burn a few calories and use a cycle.
- UNEP’s Food Waste Index states, people globally waste a billion tons of food annually. This accounts to about 8-10% of global greenhouse gases. Buy whatever you can easily finish and store food items correctly. If inedible remnants are left, make compost out of it. Special attention needs to be paid to wasted food in our weddings and parties that rots in garbage dumps later.
- Reduce your energy consumption. With the rising living costs and levels of global warming, it is wise to take little steps that would reduce your bills as well as your carbon footprint. Switch to low energy lights, switch off appliances when not in use and perform household tasks manually.
Educate yourself, spread the word, pressurize your politicians and take ownership of whatever is in your control. We owe it to our future generations and the planet!
“Use your voice, Use your vote, Use your choice.” – Al Gore