People in Islamabad heard the noise of the excessive rain caused by the cloudburst last week. But amid that noise, the meagre calls for climate change were drowned out. The only good thing that came out of that horror is that cloudburst has been added to our vocabulary now. While the cloudburst may appear to be a natural phenomenon, there is every reason to believe that man’s fingerprints were all over it. There is no nature left on this planet that has not been battered by mankind and his greed.
In the NBC show Manifest, a group of airplane passengers land after a 2-3 hour flight. However, when they land, 5 years have passed in the world and nobody has a clue as to what and how that happened. The passengers re-enter a world of 5 years in the future. They all start getting callings where they see visions of unexplained things. They follow those callings, even when doing so defies logic and ethics, and the result is some positive outcome.
The cloudburst in Islamabad is nothing short of a calling except that it was not just a vision. It is as though the cloud opened up with a burst to remind us to open our eyes similarly to the uncomfortable realities of climate change. Studies have found that cloudbursts happen in an area where wildfires have happened recently. In Islamabad, we saw wildfires in the Margalla Hills just recently. The excessive heat partly caused by that wildfire could very well be responsible for the cloudburst.
Even if the Margalla Hills wildfire and the cloudburst are too far apart in time to justify the cause and effect correlation, it remains indisputable that cloudbursts occur when warm air from the ground rushes up and carries with it the falling raindrops. The result is that the rain doesn’t pour down in a steady fashion and instead causes excessive condensation in the clouds where new droplets are also formed. After reaching the maximum pressure, the cloud bursts open releasing all the rain at once.
It was heart wrenching to know about the death of a mother and her son in the basement of a house in the E-11 sector of Islamabad. However, the videos circulating on social media are what I was referring to as the calling. We saw cars being carried away by the currents of the flash flood. It is as though nature used a cloudburst to remind us all that those cars need to go away. The warm air that caused the cloudburst, the wildfires in Margalla Hills, the excessive heat that Islamabad experienced are all the result of those very cars that we so fondly own and drive. The combustion of the oil inside the engines of those cars releases an enormous amount of carbon that accumulates into the atmosphere creating excessive warming.
Furthermore, it also served as a reminder that Islamabad being far away from rivers and seas is not immune to the effects of climate change because the rise in sea level is not the only climate change problem humanity will soon face. The sea level rise is not the only source of inundating the cities. The flash flood also served as a reminder that Islamabad is not prepared to deal with calamities resulting from climate change. Once again, I will remind us all that Pakistan is one of the most vulnerable countries to the devastating effects of climate change.
Sadly, the main stories surrounding the incident were all about Karachi-based journalists reminding the country about how the cloudburst proved the ineptitude of the PTI-led government and the Islamabad-based journalists reminding them about the Karachi storm of last year in a shameful battle. The inundation of the houses and the streets in the E-11 sector of Islamabad partly resulted from bad planning, illegal construction on the bank of a nullah, and so forth. Nevertheless, no planned development would safeguard against the assault of climate change.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 1st, 2021.
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