By Varun Kolachina
Over the past few months, Pakistan has been devastated by flooding that has been described as the “worst in country history” as a combination of heavy rains, poor infrastructure, and lack of adequate resources has submerged one-third of the country.
Pakistan is the fifth-most populated country in the world with more than 220 million people, among which the floods have affected over 33 million. On top of this, the floods have left over $30 billion of damage in their wake with almost 2 million households destroyed and over 1,500 estimated deaths, and these figures are only expected to rise as the floods progress.
The magnitude of this flooding has brought attention from global organizations including UNICEF and the International Medical Corps who have been helping find ways to help the country recover from this disaster. However, political issues within the country and the historical negligence of the issues facing developing countries has made bouncing back from the destruction caused by the flooding difficult for Pakistan.
Also important to be noted is the undeniable role of climate change in the flooding as years of uncontrolled global warming are finally spilling over in the form of catastrophic natural disasters, and Pakistan happens to be the one facing the consequences.
The hardest hit areas by the flooding are the Sindh and Balochistan provinces which, according to Pakistan’s Meteorological Department, have experienced rainfall in the month of August that is more than five times their monthly average. These regions are also two of the most populated in the country, which makes the flooding even more harmful as villages have been entirely washed away. In fact, the rain has been so intense in the Sindh province that the rainwater flooded the land and formed a 100km wide lake within the region.
The people living in the flooded areas have been struggling to survive as obtaining basic necessities has become a difficult task. Many people have no way of making money because of the floods which has left them with very limited possibilities of being able to provide for their families during this crisis.
To make matters worse, a large portion of the land used to grow crops has been flooded which leaves people with food insecurity and a lack of means of selling crops to earn money. The floods also bring the likely possibility for waterborne diseases to be spread across the country, especially to the poorest individuals who have fewer chances of finding clean water.
The last instance of comparable flooding in Pakistan was back in July and August of 2010, which had an estimated total economic impact of $43 billion with 20 million people affected and more than 2,000 killed. Although these numbers are eerily similar to the numbers from the current flooding, it is expected that the impact of the current floods is only expected to grow as it is seen as worse than the floods in 2010.
A significant factor that has contributed to the massive impact of the flooding is the political inaction of Pakistan’s officials. One of the largest shortcomings is their lack of adequate preparation for the flooding. Though it is true that it is difficult to predict the level of flooding that would occur, their previous experience with the devastation that occurred from the flooding in 2010 created multiple resources, such as the National Disaster Management Authority, that were not used to their full capability to prepare for the monsoon season.
Another factor that cannot be ignored is the role of the international community in helping Pakistan deal with the floods. It is important to note that countries such as Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, China, and the United States have all sent aid to Pakistan that includes food, water, tents, and other supplies. Furthermore, the United Nations, Islamic Relief, International Medical Corps, and Save the Children are some of the many organizations working on the ground in Pakistan to help people remain safe.
However, the international community has a large role in the effects of the flooding as there has been limited global media attention toward Pakistan’s floods. This can be traced to the country’s status as one of many developing countries, which have historically been neglected by the developed world, particularly in times of suffering.
Scientists have labeled this flood as a once-in-a-century event, a phrase that is extremely concerning since this type of flood has now occurred in Pakistan twice in the span of 13 years (2010 and 2022). Such historical events don’t typically happen so frequently just by coincidence, making the fingerprints of climate change on the floods evident.
As greenhouse gases continue to be emitted, global warming continues to occur, causing the effects of climate change to become more prominent around the world. One of these effects is intense weather events, including monsoons, that cause widespread flooding that causes further harmful effects such as food insecurity and the spread of diseases, all of which we can see in the Pakistan floods.
As mentioned earlier, Pakistan’s status as a developing country makes their plight worse, even with climate change. The countries that emit the most amounts of greenhouse gases as developed countries, who compose 79% of historical carbon emissions. The impacts of these emissions, however, tend to be faced by developing countries who neither have the resources to deal with the disasters nor substantial financial support.
For example, Pakistan contributes less than 1% of global greenhouse gas emissions, yet they are having to deal with the strongest effects of climate change. This inequity will continue to exist as long as climate change continues to increase in severity over the next few years.
Climate change is showing no signs of slowing down, as can be seen by the level of suffering currently being experienced in Pakistan. Addressing climate change is the only way to ensure that events such as the floods in Pakistan do not happen elsewhere so that countries can be free from this burden and lives can be saved.
About the Author
Varun Kolachina is a freelance writer covering climate change, economic policy and current events. He writes to raise awareness about the severity of the climate crisis and economic policies that can address its various environmental and social effects.