Floods and climate change have wide-ranging effects in Pakistan. Vulnerable populations, including the poor, women, and children, bear a disproportionate burden.

The MET office has issued a warning about the possibility of a catastrophic monsoon and flood situation similar to the 2022 floods in the country this year. Factors such as rising temperatures, glacier melting, and an early monsoon contribute to this concern. If these destructive floods were to occur again, there is a significant chance that the country would face a serious economic crisis.

Therefore, it is crucial for the government to declare a “climate emergency” in the country without delay. This declaration will communicate to the world that the issue is being approached with the highest level of seriousness and urgency.

In May of this year, Sindh was hit by a severe and unexpected hailstorm. This hailstorm caused extensive damage, impacting the mango and other crops, and resulting in financial and physical losses for city residents.

Additionally, yesterday, heavy rainfall followed by thunderstorms wreaked havoc in different districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, leading to over 20 reported deaths and numerous injuries. Meanwhile, Karachi is preparing for an approaching coastal storm. It is important to highlight that all of these disasters are directly linked to climate change.

Floods and climate change have wide-ranging effects in Pakistan. Vulnerable populations, including the poor, women, and children, bear a disproportionate burden. Displaced communities face challenges in accessing essential services like clean water, healthcare, and education, which have long-term consequences for their well-being and development.

Pakistan’s agriculture sector, a vital source of livelihood, is also impacted by changing rainfall patterns, prolonged droughts, and heat waves, resulting in crop failures, food shortages, and economic hardships for farmers.

The floods in Pakistan are a direct consequence of climate change, which is causing an increase in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events such as heat waves, monsoon rains, and glacial melt. Despite contributing less than 1% of global greenhouse gas emissions, Pakistan ranks among the top five affected countries.

In addition to the above, there are many other causes of floods, such as deforestation and improper land management practices that lead to soil erosion, which reduces the land’s ability to absorb and retain water.

Insufficient infrastructure, including dams, embankments, and drainage systems, makes it difficult to manage the flow of water. Another factor is illegal encroachment and construction on riverbeds, which restrict the natural flow of water and contribute to river overflow during heavy rainfall.

Since 2010, Pakistan has experienced several devastating floods with significant damage and loss of life. The 2010 floods affected around 20 million people and claimed over 1,600 lives. In 2011, the Sindh floods affected over 5.3 million people and caused over 400 deaths.

In 2014, the Kashmir floods caused over 400 fatalities and displaced more than 1 million individuals. The 2019 Sindh floods affected over 700,000 people and caused significant crop damage. In 2020, Karachi witnessed its most devastating floods in almost a century, resulting in at least 41 deaths and extensive damage due to heavy monsoon rains.

The floods in 2022 resulted in the tragic loss of 1,739 lives, including 647 children. Approximately 600,000 pregnant women in Pakistan were impacted by the floods, leading to increased risks of complications, infections, and mortality for both mothers and newborns.

The latest economic survey’s special section on flood impact assessment reveals that the floods caused Rs 3.2 trillion ($14.9 billion) in damages and Rs 3.3 trillion ($15.2 billion) in economic losses.

The rehabilitation efforts require an estimated $16.3 billion. Infrastructure was severely impacted, with $5.6 billion in damages to housing, $3.7 billion to agriculture, livestock, and fisheries, and $3.3 billion to transport and communications. The recovery and reconstruction process prioritizes transport and communication, followed by agriculture and livestock, and then household needs based on cost.

Sindh was disproportionately affected, with damage and losses totaling over $18 billion. The floods were caused by heavy monsoon rains and melting glaciers, both of which are connected to climate change. Over 33 million people were affected, and more than 1 million houses were destroyed or damaged.

The floods in 2022 also resulted in significant damage to the education sector, including the complete or partial destruction of over 18,000 schools, with Sindh being the hardest hit, with nearly 16,000 schools destroyed.

Around 3.5 million children, especially girls, are at risk of permanently leaving school due to the disruption caused by climate-related events. However, it is important to highlight the commendable efforts of the Sindh government in effectively managing the drainage of floodwater, despite the extensive damage suffered by the agricultural sector.

 These catastrophic events force families to relocate, uprooting children from their communities, schools, and support systems, exposing them to risks such as exploitation and limited access to education and healthcare. The floods in 2022 were the deadliest since the 2020 South Asian floods and ranked among the world’s most expensive natural disasters in history.

Despite the significant financial and infrastructure damage caused by rainfall and floods, we have not learned from these disasters.

However, as a united nation, we should learn from these experiences and utilize this water to minimise losses from floods and rainfall. We should concentrate on utilizing this water for agriculture, energy production, and other alternative purposes.

To minimize the impact of floods, it is crucial to prioritize utilizing our own resources rather than relying solely on international assistance. Harnessing technology can greatly improve the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of flood management.

This involves implementing advanced systems like early warning mechanisms, enhancing flood forecasting methods, and improving infrastructure such as flood control structures and drainage systems.

We should adopt climate-smart agricultural practices, foster a climate-smart agricultural economy, and strive for a green revolution 2.0. By embracing technology, we can better prepare for floods, mitigate their effects, and safeguard lives and properties.

Investing in infrastructure like dams, levees, and resilient city drainage systems is essential for flood control. These measures will help prevent excessive water flow, protect vulnerable areas, and ensure effective floodwater management. Prioritizing our own capabilities and leveraging technological solutions are key to managing and reducing the damages caused by floods.