THIS year’s thundering monsoon and the subsequent loss of life and property have once again exposed our inability to prepare for and manage natural disasters. The total death toll from rain-related damage in the country since mid-June has crossed 170 while heavy rainfall continues to batter several areas.

With the latest spell of rain claiming over 20 lives in Hazara and Malakand divisions of KP, the total number of deaths in the province has surpassed those in Sindh. Heavy landslides and flash floods have destroyed a large number of homes, several schools and other structures, and have damaged the road and communications network in Chitral, Swat, Shangla, Kohistan, Lower Dir, Charsadda, Mardan and other areas.

There have also been at least three extreme weather events during the past two months. On Aug 28, flash floods resulting from a cloudburst in Swat valley swept away around 45 houses while killing at least 11 people. Meanwhile, in Chitral, two glacial lake outbursts — one on July 13 and the other on Aug 14 — also resulted in considerable losses.

The recurring floods that have been worsening over the years combined with these freak weather events are a clear warning to the authorities to take effective measures to limit the impact of climate change in the country.

Pakistan is among the top 10 countries most vulnerable to the deadly effects of global warming. While in KP the provincial rescue departments have been prompt in their response to the crises and are providing relief to the affected people, the general state of the disaster management infrastructure in the country leaves a lot to be desired.

Since changing climate patterns and measures to mitigate their effect are not taken into account while preparing a plan for disaster management, the collective effort is ad hoc and often an exercise in futility. With no sustainable solutions, such short-term measures come at great expense in terms of resources. What the country needs is an integrated disaster prevention and management system that takes into consideration both prevention and preparedness.

For this, help can be sought from the federal climate change ministry to pinpoint the risk factors and vulnerable areas. Moreover, the authorities would also need to invest in the latest equipment for accurate weather forecasts and capacity building of disaster management authorities’ staff so that they can plan beyond mundane relief measures to guard against the perennial loss of life and property.

Published in Dawn, September 4th, 2020


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