Hot spells

Published May 26, 2024

WITH Pakistan already dealing with a heatwave that has affected 26 districts since May 21, word from the climate change ministry is that this is merely the beginning. This wave, set to last until May 30, will be followed by two more in June, intensifying an already dire situation. Temperatures are expected to soar 5°C to 6°C above normal, with the second heatwave occurring from June 7-8 and the third in the last week of the month. Unsustainable environmental practices have contributed to the increased frequency and intensity of heatwaves. These harsh conditions not only threaten human lives, they also accelerate glacier melt and heighten the risk of forest fires. The government, recognising the gravity of the situation, has taken several measures. Comprehensive guidelines and early warnings have been disseminated, aiming to prevent casualties similar to the catastrophic 2015 heatwave. Public awareness drives are ongoing to educate people about health risks and necessary precautions. Additionally, the NDMA is coordinating with provincial departments to ensure timely responses to natural disasters.

These efforts, while commendable, must be bolstered. The authorities must prioritise expanding green cover through aggressive reforestation, crucial for mitigating the long-term impact of climate change. Boosting urban infrastructure to better withstand extreme heat and ensuring uninterrupted water and electricity supply during peak heat periods are imperative. There is also an urgent need to enhance disaster management capabilities. Developing and promoting the NDMA’s mobile application for real-time alerts and advisories can significantly improve public preparedness. Establishing more cooling centres and enhancing healthcare facilities to treat heat-induced ailments should be expedited. Workers who toil under the open sky must be given due consideration, with water breaks and summer-friendly timings. At the community level, people should avoid unnecessary outdoor activities, especially during peak heat hours. Vulnerable groups like children, the elderly, and those with health conditions need special attention. Simple measures, such as staying hydrated, wearing loose clothing, and keeping homes cool, can prevent heat-related illnesses. Communities should also play a role in preventing forest fires by avoiding the disposal of flammable materials in open areas. Additionally, joint efforts to plant and care for trees can help reduce temperatures. With a collaborative approach, we can mitigate the impact of these extreme weather events.

Published in Dawn, May 26th, 2024

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