The blazing sun could not be more merciless in Jacobabad, where the temperatures touched 52 degrees Celsius in the recent days, as a severe heatwave gripped most cities and towns of Sindh, besides southern parts of Punjab and adjacent areas of Balochistan.
Jacobabad city in upper Sindh is the virtual hotspot of the current heatwave, where the temperatures peaking to 51 degrees Celsius (124 Fahrenheit) at the weekend. The city and the nearby town of Thul sizzled in 48 Celsius on Monday, while 47 Celsius was recorded in Sibi, Balochistan and Jhelum in Punjab.
Life in Jacobabad is dominated by attempts to cope with the heat. Power shortages mean only six hours of electricity a day in rural areas and 12 in the city. Access to drinking water is unreliable and unaffordable due to scarcity across the country and major infrastructure problems.
According to local officials, most of the 1 million people of Jacobabad and surrounding villages live in acute poverty with water shortages and power cuts compromising their ability to beat the heat. “The overall quality of life here is suffering,” Deputy Commissioner Abdul Hafeez Siyal said.
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Jacobabad is on the “front line of climate change”, Siyal said. “Previously, the heat would be at its peak in June and July, but now it’s arriving in May,” said Bashir Ahmed, who works at a heatstroke clinic run by local NGO.
Experts say the searing weather is in line with projections for global warming. “Temperatures have touched 52 degrees, it is alarming,” Jodat Ayaz, the additional secretary of the Climate Change Ministry said in Islamabad. “Many cities will be uninhabitable if we did not change our lifestyles,” Ayaz added.
Climate Change Minister Sherry Rehman told reporters that Pakistan had seen 152 extreme weather events in the past 20 years. She added that the UN had put Pakistan among the top 23 most-drought-hit countries and among the top-10 affected countries due to climate change.’
“The heatwave has spiked up and gained longevity in its span,” the minister said. “The prime minister, in an important development, has formulated a national task force to stir disaster management efforts to tackle severe heatwave and GLOF [Glacial Lake Outburst Flood] events,” she added.
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Rehman said that the task force would decide about the measures in wake of the heatwave. She added that the federal government had alerted all the provinces regarding the heatwave and more than 1,000 heatwave centres had been set up across the country.
“Heatwave will have serious impacts on masses and our early communication can help save lives”, the minister said. “We have established over 1,000 heatwave centres each in Sindh and Punjab and the task force’s meeting is being chaired by Secretary Ministry of Climate Change,” she added.
The Meteorological Department has indicated a prolonged heatwave till June. It said on Monday that most parts of the country would remain in the grip of very hot weather this week, while dust storms were expected at some places in Gilgit-Baltistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab and Kashmir.
(WITH INPUT FROM AFP)
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