Conflict Alerts

Conflict Alerts # 155, 2 September 2020

Pakistan: Torrential rains wreak havoc in Karachi and other parts
Abigail Miriam Fernandez

In the news
On 27 August, torrential rain and flash floods continued to lash Karachi for the third consecutive day, as downpours in August shattered an 89-year-old record, with the city receiving 223.5mm of rain in just 12 hours on Thursday alone, the highest amount of rain ever recorded in a single day in the city. Officials and rescue service have announced that close to 80 lives had been claimed by the various rain-related incidents with rains wreaking havoc in the following days leaving several areas of Karachi remained submerged and without power on 30 August.

The same was the case with Balochistan, where on 29 August, the Balochistan government has declared an emergency in nine districts as the flood situation has worsened in the province. Further, over 100 villages were inundated and hundreds of acres of crops damaged by floods that have reported across Punjab due to the heavy downpour.

More recently, on 31 August, the Pakistan Metrological Department (PMD) issued a significant flood warning for the northern parts of the country, predicting heavy to very heavy rainfall in catchment areas of river Kabul River along with hill torrents of Dera Ghazi Khan division.

Issues at large
First, the slow onset of climate change has caused rainfall to become unpredictable. Pakistan's monsoon rains normally originate from moisture swept in over India from the Bay of Bengal. Usually, the rains start in the east, centred on Punjab province with the rains then migrate northwest, dissipating by the time they reach the capital, Islamabad, and ending in scattered rains before dying out in Afghanistan. However, over last few years, the PMD officials have noticed that the centre of Pakistan's monsoon has been gradually shifting to the northwest, away from the nation's watershed in Punjab due to impact of climate change on precipitation distribution patterns.

Second, Pakistan's lack of preparedness for climate disasters. Pakistan's development strategists have failed to respond effectively to the defining climate crisis. Sindh, in particular, is a prime example of this failure where despite the various development investments over the years, climate vulnerability remains. Further, the lack of access to climate funds is becoming disadvantageous for developing countries like Pakistan, which are facing the brunt of climate change.

Third, the situation most importantly exposes the grave shortcomings of governance. Poor design and management of roads, drainage, intersections, underground sewers and sidewalks have caused unparalleled chaos and damage. Further, the over spilling of drains and the absence of properly directed flow of rainwater, streets, transitways and adds to the problem. In a situation such as this, preparedness is one of is essentials in order to mitigate the disaster followed by prevention, alleviation of sufferings and community awareness. Unfortunately, successive governments have neglected in their preparation to deal with such crises. Further, the disaster management authorities now face the dilemma of managing flood disasters amid a pandemic.

In perspective
The situation in Pakistan is a sign to show how much of the developing world is deliberately making it more vulnerable to climate change. The need of the hour is for the prioritization of urban flood risk management on the political and policy agenda and also to ensure that timely actions are of all tiers of government work in unison to mitigate the problem.
Further, the government of Pakistan, although it has a mechanism in the forms of laws to address the issues, needs to focus on implementing the same in order to deal crises.

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