Climate change is a reality that has implications for everyone. Global temperatures are on the rise because of global emissions fuelled by human activities. The impact of climate change is disproportionately more on the poor, be it a country, community or individual. Developing countries are already grappling with climate change issues among other problems. Pakistan is one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change and the recent incidents are evidence of this. From Karachi to the mountains of Gilgit, the country is fighting hard to avert life and infrastructure losses.

Let’s take infrastructure, which includes buildings, roads, power and water supplies and others for the operations of a society. Any developed or developing country needs infrastructure to operate and develop, however, developing countries especially post-colonial states are suffering from climatic corruption when it comes to infrastructure. The state of new infrastructure in these countries is deplorable when compared to the ones built by the colonisers. These poor-quality infrastructures make communities more vulnerable to climate change. Interestingly, the infrastructures built for wealth extraction by colonisers are still functioning, but infrastructures, post-independence, planned and built for inclusion are in shambles. New and old generations are both in awe at the infrastructures left behind by the colonisers.

Studies confirm that infrastructure will play a huge role in making communities resilient to climate change. The study on climate resilience and infrastructure investments of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) from Bangladesh, India, China and Germany put the infrastructure losses between $4–13 trillion by 2100. Bangladesh and India make good comparisons for Pakistan. As one of the top 10 vulnerable countries to climate change, Pakistan lacks essential elements to make its infrastructure resilient and sustainable. The annual loss to the GDP from poor infrastructure needs to be studied. The Climate Change Profile of Pakistan published by the Asian Development Bank mentions the vulnerability of urban infrastructure to climatic events like flash floods, cloudbursts, and powerful monsoons. Reports are published and shelved and the country moves on to the next report sans dedicated directions on building sustainable and resilient infrastructure.

After 75 years of independence, we only have Islamabad as a planned city. Now, even Islamabad has started to show fallouts after years of revisions to its original master plan. Pakistan is a fertile land for housing societies and planned housing is rampant across the country albeit for the rich. These, however, also show a lack of quality and management like others. The recent floods in Karachi made these housing societies look like urban pools. If the drainage in high-end housing societies cannot handle the intense precipitation then the middle-class or poor settlements are out of the question. They are condemned to suffer by the planners.

Infrastructure will be the biggest bulwark to communities as climate change impacts hover. The quality of infrastructure in Pakistan is abysmal. The University of Notre Dame Global Adaptation Initiative (ND-GAIN) ranks countries on vulnerability and readiness by compiling data across ten sectors. Vulnerability sectors include water, food, health, ecosystems, human habitat, coastal infrastructure, energy infrastructure and transportation infrastructure. While readiness is the capacity to leverage investments to enhance capacity through economic opportunity, governance, and Social Structures. In 2019, the ND-GAIN ranked Pakistan 151 in the overall ranking and on the vulnerability ranking it ranked 143 and on the readiness ranking, it ranked 161 out of 192. Only Bangladesh and Afghanistan are below Pakistan. One can contest the methodology and criteria for the ranking, but a cursory look around would discourage that urge.

After all these years of development, even the urban infrastructures are not adequate to support communities during intense rainfalls and floods. The rural situation is even grimmer. The plight of rural areas is often just numbers added to the public records. The devastating floods in rural Balochistan continue to take precious lives because several mini dams have exploded due to poor infrastructure. Roads are blocked in Gilgit Baltistan and many parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa including Chitral. Northern Pakistan is more vulnerable to climate-related hazards.

As the country moves forward, sustainable and resilient infrastructure must be prioritised. Climate proofing should be made an integral part of infrastructure projects. Resilient infrastructures make communities resilient to climate change. Authorities and contractors must avoid hiding their incompetency behind climate change and the authorities must account for contractors whose insincere work put not only lives at risk but also derails development.