Pakistan is ground zero for climate change destruction

The devastation is of colossal proportions and will take years to rebuild.

Faced with floods on an unprecedented scale, almost a third of Pakistan was left under water, rendering its crumbling infrastructure and decaying civic agencies unable to cope with the scale and scale of the disaster. Completely irrational and illegal constructions encroaching on the natural drainage channels have added to the misery.

In the most affected areas, aid took weeks to arrive. Hundreds of people died while waiting to be evacuated. Emergency medical aid was not available as people were cut off from the rest of the country. And, although the water is receding, several villages are still submerged.

The death toll from the floods is nearing 1,700. More than 33 million people have been affected, while nearly 8 million have had to flee their homes. Some 600,000 people continue to live in squalid relief camps, not knowing how to start their lives over. And unless taken care of immediately, a medical and food emergency is imminent.

The floods have also caused economic disaster in Pakistan, a country already struggling with inflation, high global commodity prices and a growing budget deficit. The extent of the damage has been estimated at nearly $40 billion and it could increase further. Some 30,000 km of roads, as well as bridges, railways and power lines were destroyed. Crops, livestock and livelihoods were washed away. According to initial estimates, some 4 million hectares of crops were destroyed. For an agrarian economy like Pakistan, this is a huge loss.

Record monsoon rains and melting glaciers in its northern mountains caused the deluge – the worst Pakistan has ever seen. The world is beginning to reach out, but it’s far less than necessary.

A revised flood response plan launched by the UN in Geneva last week called for immediate assistance of $816 million for « life-saving humanitarian assistance to 9.5 million people » in the worst areas. affected. On Friday, the United Nations General Assembly unanimously adopted a resolution urging donor countries and institutions to support rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts. Last month, US President Biden used his speech at the United Nations General Assembly in New York to urge countries to help Pakistan weather the disaster.

The role of climate change in disasters is becoming evident. UN Secretary-General António Guterres called the floods « climate carnage » on a scale never seen before.

Pakistani Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif stressed: “Nature has unleashed its fury on Pakistan without looking at our carbon footprint, which is almost zero. Our actions have not contributed to it”, emphasizing, he wants “climate justice for rich and polluting countries”.

He added that « the enormity of this climate-induced disaster is beyond our fiscal means. »

“Humanity received a memo by nature and this memo came via Pakistan. We waged a war against nature with… our addiction to fossil fuels and now nature is waging war on us,” said Sherry Rehman, former journalist and current Pakistani climate change minister, to Al Jazeera.

Climate change is not limited to Pakistan. It affects all of South Asia. This caused excessive rain and flooding in India, Manka Behl wrote in her Times of India article in August. “India is heavily dependent on the south-west monsoons and over the past few decades this has become increasingly erratic and abrupt due to climate change,” said Abinash Mohanty, program manager at the Council of India. energy, environment and water. The Indian Meteorological Department reports that heavy rain events have increased by almost 85% in the country since 2012.

Climate change is upon us. Disaster is in preparation. The world must urgently wake up to this challenge. Pakistan cannot be left alone.

Rashid Husain Syed is a Toronto-based journalist and analyst focusing on the Middle East, global energy geopolitics and South Asia.

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