ACCORDING to estimates, Pakistan is especially vulnerable to climate change as the world is grappling with its impacts and global shifts in hydrological cycles. In addition to having a significant negative economic, social and environmental impact nationwide, the recent increase in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather is also expected to result in an increase in disease burden, water scarcity, heat stress, financial and food insecurity, and natural disasters.

Recent torrential monsoon rains and floods are examples of natural calamities that demonstrated the power of nature against the fragility of man. With well over a thousand deaths and twice as many injuries that have been reported and documented thus far, 65 per cent of the country has been affected by these catastrophic weather patterns. Balochistan is the province with the highest level of damage (100pc), followed by Sindh (89pc), Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) (70pc), and Punjab (19pc), while Gilgit-Baltistan (57pc) and Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) (44pc) have also been affected badly.

Damage levels vary according to the severity, exposure and susceptibility of the afflicted populations. These calamities caused tremendous harm, devastation and destruction to homes, infrastructures and locales. The victims experienced substantial psycho-traumatogenic experiences, like the loss of loved ones, memories, or possessions as well as significant anxiety, existential distress, depression and deterioration of interpersonal ties. However, these effects might be immediate, post-immediate or long-term.

Consequently, a better understanding of the trends in climate change is of utmost importance for effective management of spatiotemporal changes in rainfall pattern and its impact on the hydrological regime in Pakistan, and at least one field, such as ‘emergency management’, needs to be promoted in the country.

Emergency management is becoming more and more appealing and is crucial to saving lives. The main goal is based on an overarching framework that comprises three parts; pre-event forecasting and preparedness, in-event response and evacuation, and post-event recovery from natural and human-caused hazards. These initiatives are primarily concerned with fostering a ready culture among local governments and communities.

Prevention, mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery are all part of such activities. The first step in trying to stop a detrimental occurrence in its tracks is prevention. The tactics employed include: gathering intelligence; monitoring; security; inspections; testing, like, say, food testing; vaccination; and quarantine. Risks to individuals and property are reduced or even eliminated via mitigation. It considers long-term fixes, and its methods include hazard recognition, such as floods, mapping and construction codes.

Preparedness is vital before a serious event, and part of it involves risk management to identify threats, hazards and vulnerabilities. Following that, both the government and the corporate sector should concentrate on training and determining the resources required for response and recovery.

Everyone has a role to play in terms of preparedness. Response entails actions that deal with an incident’s immediate impacts and aims at preserving lives, providing for basic human necessities, and safeguarding property. Lastly, recovery is about taking steps to support individuals and communities in getting back to normal. It helps rebuild community’s infrastructure, essential services, government, housing, companies and other operations.

Therefore, given a substantial eroding of this capacity in a nation, there is a dire need for new technologies for improved hazard identification and risk assessment. The outcomes must be integrated into operations and planning for response and recovery after they have been established.

Additionally, new competencies and silo-crossing abilities must be developed at all levels of governance.

To reverse the current trend before it becomes a threat to national security, it is also necessary to focus on endangered areas to provide a focal point for pre-and post-disaster mitigation activities.

Dr Ainy Zehra
Karachi

Published in Dawn, September 22nd, 2022

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