A wooden bridge that connects the village of Sherqila in Ghizer district to the rest of the country was swept away by floodwaters on Wednesday.—Dawn
A wooden bridge that connects the village of Sherqila in Ghizer district to the rest of the country was swept away by floodwaters on Wednesday.—Dawn

• Sherry Rehman says country received rains at nearly double the 30-year average
• Sindh, Balochistan receive 261pc, 274pc more rains than normal
• People urged to heed to weather advisories to minimise loss of life and property

ISLAMABAD: The government on Wednesday cautioned the public that the country had experienced nearly double the average rainfall recorded in the first week of July over the past 30 years, making it among the highest rain spells in the last three decades.

These above-normal monsoon rains have so far killed nearly 77 people since June 14, and may cause flash floods. In the July 1 to 6 period over the last 30 years, the country recorded an average of nine milimetres of monsoon rain, however this year, the amount surged to 16.8pc.

“Pakistan is experiencing 87 per cent more monsoon rainfall than average this year. Nearly 77 people have lost their lives since June 14 due to the unusual monsoon rains. This is only the beginning,” said Minister for Climate Change Sherry Rehman at a press briefing to caution the public of the above-normal monsoon season triggered by global warming. She also expressed concern over the incidents of flash floods and glacial lake outburst floods (GLOF) with the onset of the monsoon season.

The minister said 39 people had died, including three women and four children, and 35 were injured in rain-related incidents in Balochistan — the highest number of deaths reported this monsoon season.

Outside of Quetta, Turbat and Pasni were also experiencing urban flooding. The Balochistan government had declared an emergency for the next 24 hours. While in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, flash floods occurred due to GLOF incidents in Shaidas and Harchin nullahs in Laspur Valley. Commuters and tourists returning from the recently concluded Shandur Polo Festival were stranded in the valley after the main roads were submerged in floodwater, Ms Rehman informed the briefing.

“Teams are on the ground to repair the roads as soon as possible and open routes to enable tourists to leave for their next destinations,” she added.

Talking about the situation in Sindh, she said the province had received 261pc more rains than its average and Balochistan 274pc, which was the highest so far. “The average temperatures are based on 30 years of datasets so we can see that this is very high. We are the fifth most affected country due to climate change. Just a few weeks ago, we were talking about heatwaves and forest fires and now we have dived into GLOF and flash floods, and 16 GLOF events have been reported in the last two months at a time when the annual average is five or six. The reason is we face the intensity of global warming from around the world because of our geo-location and we have the most glaciers outside the polar region,” Ms Rehman added.

She stressed making policies and taking actions to deal with climate change as part of the national narrative. The media was already doing a great job of educating the masses but there was a need to raise awareness more than ever -- as the ministry was doing now – and for educating people about environment, she maintained.

The minister also praised the timely warnings and data generated by the National Disaster Management Authority at the onset of heavy rains and windstorms across the country. “It is not the mandate of the Ministry of Climate Change to conduct relief and rescue operations during these times, but to ensure coordination and timely generation of warnings as well as directives to provinces.”

She urged the people to heed to weather advisories to minimise loss of lives and damage to properties.

As natural calamities in Pakistan were becoming severe, Ms Rehman drew attention towards the economic losses caused to Pakistan by global warming that stood at 9.2pc of the gross domestic product (GDP), the highest in the region in terms of percentage of the GDP.

“However, the most pressing problem Pakistan is faced with is still the water crisis. If the current streak of water stress continues, we will be water-scarce by 2025. Right now our dams are strengthening but the problem of waster stress is not going away. We need to expedite our efforts to use water wisely and save our resources,” she stressed.

The PPP leader said her ministry had launched an ambitious ‘Living Indus’ initiative along with the Indus Recharge project that would involve recharging and cleaning of major rivers. Both the projects had been shared with the provinces for consultation. “A lot of work is in the pipeline for us to make policies that will place adaptation at the core of our efforts to minimise and mitigate further exposure to risk,” she added.

Published in Dawn, July 7th, 2022

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