Monsoon emergency

Published August 7, 2022

AS another wet weather system has entered Pakistan, and the federal government has declared a “monsoon emergency”, citizens are hoping that this time the state will mount a better response to extreme weather and its after-effects. Tweeting on Friday, Federal Minister for Climate Change Sherry Rehman warned that as per the Met department, practically the whole country will be in the grip of a monsoon system till at least Aug 13, with the possibility of urban flooding as well as flash floods. For the people of Balochistan, as well as of Karachi, who have yet to recover from the devastating effects of the last rain spell, the weatherman’s forecast brings a sense of foreboding. Balochistan has fared the worst, while southern Punjab has also been hit hard by flash floods and intense rainfall. According to the minister, Balochistan has received 600pc above normal rainfall, while Sindh’s figure was over 500pc. Meanwhile, the NDMA has said that nearly 550 people have been killed in rain-related incidents over the past month, with Balochistan worst affected, while over 46,000 houses have been damaged. In Karachi, the drainage system collapsed — as usual — during the last wet spell, and stagnant rainwater mixed with sewage remained on the roads for days. The rain-battered roads of Karachi, resembling the cratered lunar landscape, have made commuting in the city all the more painful, while roads and bridges in other parts of the country have also been badly affected, with 700km of roads washed away in Balochistan.

Amongst the primary concerns of the state at this point should be the rehabilitation of people affected by rains in Balochistan, southern Punjab and other areas. With more wet weather on the way, the affected populations need to be housed in safer places with access to shelter, food, water and medical care. Meanwhile, drains in the cities must be cleaned on an emergency basis to prevent a repeat of last month’s disaster. However, circumstantial evidence in Karachi shows that many drains are ever-ready to overflow due to the negligence of the authorities concerned. Apart from firefighting measures in the immediate future, longer-term planning is needed to cope with the vagaries of extreme weather. The climate change minister hinted at “building medium-term resilience after … the crisis is over”. Unless this is done, the grim annual ritual of monsoon death and misery will continue with no end in sight to the people’s suffering.

Published in Dawn, August 7th, 2022

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