Caught by the Climate

Newspaper archives tell tales that no historian can narrate. Ironically, in this part of the world, these archives are not very different from the current news. Chronic problems continue to plague the lives of people. The misery is compound­ed over the years. Natural disasters are one of such conun­drums which, over the years, have wreaked havoc across the country. Floods, forest fires, heat waves and droughts are a few to mention.

Unfortunately, as the frequency of these disasters in­creases, our response and preparedness adopted a regres­sive approach that resortes to semi-motivated warnings and lethargic responses to heatwaves and forest fires. Cli­mate change is no longer an abstract doomsayer’s warning. The Pakistan Meteorological Department has recorded as much as 385 percent higher rainfall in Sindh and 371 percent in Balochistan.

Being on the list of countries most affected by climate change and relying on aid for rehabilitation, a proactive approach is in­evitable. Climate change is here and the longer we deny its ex­istence, the worse it will be for us. Adhoc-based, election-cen­tered policies are good enough to get votes but disasters can be undone only with actual work, on real grounds by competent people who can deliver as well.

In 2005, a large part of the northern and central part of the country was struck by an earthquake. Later in the day, the media revealed harrowing stories of loss of lives and property which could have been prevented if the house constructed in the hilly areas had followed engineering standards. Rehabilitation in those areas has not been wholly accomplished.

In 2010, Pakistan experienced one of the highest flood lev­els. They damaged almost 8,000 schools across the country, ac­cording to United Nations estimates. About 5,000 other schools had become shelters for the displaced; depriving children of ed­ucation. The criminal negligence in delaying the construction of dams was largely stressed. Government officials were seen shaking hands with foreign dignitaries trying to generate mo­mentum. However, nothing substantial happened.

Fast forward to the floods in 2022, they are wreaking havoc that was experienced by the masses a decade ago. The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) stated more than 650 people have died across the country and hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced with no respite from nature on the horizon. As usual, the response is limited to rescue services, aid, collecting donations and political scoring.

A few months ago, the forest fire in Balochistan faced a simi­lar response. The fire turned over 30 percent of precious pine to ashes. While the flames have finally died down thanks to the spe­cially modified firefighting aircraft dispatched by Iran.

Flood control needs long-term planning. It is not deterred by politicians opposing the construction of dams because people might be relocated to other places with compensation where it will be difficult for them to win elections.

Floods are managed, controlled and prevented with dams, res­ervoirs and weirs, not by mere words.

While Pakistan needs to develop an effective and pro-active di­saster response for the future it must also be using diplomat­ic tactics to present its unique case internationally. Pakistan is ranked eighth among countries most vulnerable to climate cri­ses despite contributing less than one percent to global carbon emissions, according to the Climate Change Risk Index 2021.

Pakistan should assign a parliamentary committee to simu­late the future calamities striking the country in the next three decades and prepare a report on the cost of prevention, mitiga­tion and rehabilitation.

The country needs to knock on the doors of international bod­ies of justice and climate change such as the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to make it binding on the countries producing a major share of carbon emission to com­pensate Pakistan for its loss due to the climate change.

This can secure the future of the country.

While my friends’ kids won’t be able to comprehend my Op-ed well enough as they are still in elementary classes. I wish if they ever read the newspaper archives and find this piece in the future they don’t see then their countrymen left at the mer­cy of an exceptional monsoon season.

Muhammad Ali Falak
The writer is a Fulbright Ph.D. candidate at Texas A&M University and graduated from The University
of Tokyo.

The writer is a fulbright PhD candidate at Texas A&M University and graduated from The University of Tokyo. He is also serving as a Senator in the Graduate Professional Student Government at Texas A&M University.

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