Climate realities

Published March 5, 2024

IN an uncharacteristic twist for March — which typically heralds the warmth of spring — several parts of Pakistan are grappling with extreme cold and incessant rains. From the waterlogged streets of Gwadar in Balochistan, through Quetta’s icy roads, to the snow-blocked routes of Gilgit-Baltistan, and onto the flood-hit areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa where the toll has risen to at least 35 lives lost, Pakistan is confronting the severe consequences of climate change. The disaster management authorities in the three regions are stretched thin responding to the challenges posed by these adverse weather conditions. In Karachi, a city accustomed to mild winters, residents find themselves compelled to unpack winter wear they thought they had stowed away for the year. Such surprises sprung by nature necessitate a shift in our national approach. Historical data can no longer be relied upon; we must bring climate adaptation to the forefront of our priorities.

To that end, the newly formed government must develop and implement a comprehensive climate adaptation policy. This policy should outline clear mechanisms for providing financial and technical support to the most vulnerable regions, ensuring an inclusive and equitable response to climate challenges. It is imperative that we invest in cutting-edge meteorological forecasting and early warning systems, especially for timely evacuations in disaster-struck areas. In addition, infrastructure resilience is of paramount importance, as evidenced by the large-scale destruction of homes in KP. Our physical structures must be designed or retrofitted to withstand extreme weather. In tandem, we must build robust communication networks that remain operational during crises, ensuring that affected communities can receive aid and information when most needed. Moreover, community involvement is essential. Local communities equipped with the knowledge and resources to face weather-related emergencies can dramatically lower the risks associated with such events. Also, a relentless push towards climate-mitigation efforts is required. Initiatives such as afforestation and reforestation, wetland restoration, and sustainable land management not only reduce vulnerability to natural disasters but also contribute to the global fight against climate change. The past week has clearly demonstrated our vulnerability to climate change. It is imperative that we adopt a proactive stance to adapt to these new climatic realities. We can no longer turn away from the gauntlet of climate change; we are now walking through it.

Published in Dawn, March 5th, 2024

Opinion

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