Balochistan out of digital loop with rest of country

Torrential rains and flash floods damage optical fiber cable


Usman Hanif August 27, 2022

KARACHI, PAKISTAN:

As the unprecedented vicious attacks triggered by climate change continue unabated, leaving many marooned, the environmental crisis has now robbed Balochistan of digital connectivity after almost cutting it off from the rest of the country physically.

Already battered by flash floods, the province lost communication with the rest of the country after overnight rains as the South Asian nation struggles to cope with the humanitarian disaster, officials said on Friday.

The destruction of infrastructure and breakdown in communication links adds to the difficulties faced by the authorities in rescue and relief efforts in the region.

The air, road and rail networks in Balochistan are already suspended, cutting it off from the rest of the country. "Due to torrential rains and flash floods in Balochistan optical fiber cable, voice and data services have been impacted in Quetta and (the) rest of the main cities of the province," Pakistan Telecom Authority (PTA) said on Twitter.

Efforts are being made to resolve this unprecedented situation, it added.

“Climate change disaster turned into a human disaster,” Abdul Qaiyum, a resident, said.
“In Balochistan, the communication system has been cut due to optical fiber cable cut at more than three places,” Federal Minister for IT and Telecom Syed Aminul Haq confirmed in a written response to The Express Tribune.

Instructions have been issued to PTCL officials to restore contact, Aminul Haq said.
Communication links will be restored in the next few hours.

Mobile and internet problems are also coming up in many areas of Sindh, said Aminul Haq.
Experts say that caused by climate change, heavy rains will keep wreaking havoc. The government should take steps to avoid such incidents in future to ensure internet connectivity.

This is the right time to think about launching satellites or using new technologies instead of dependence on cable and electricity for towers, said Kapeel Kumar, an ICT expert.
“We have to think out of the box and take corrective measures on an immediate basis,” he said.

We should have more and more alternate routes to the destinations. Each city and town may be connected from 6 different directions, all forming the so-called “self-healing rings” of optic fibres, said ICT expert Parvez Iftikhar.

It will not eliminate but reduce chances of total disconnectivity, he said.

The Internet has become an integral part of today’s life offering many benefits ranging from education, and health to business. But this flood has deprived the people of the benefits of the internet at times when life has come to a halt due to climate change – a phenomenon in which Pakistan’s contribution is one of the lowest yet it is one of its worst victims.

This is part of structural issues, said Khurram Shehzad, CEO of Alpha Beta Core (ABCore).
"We should have been investing in research and development (R&D), promoting digital economy and developing new ways for connectivity."

We should also invest and create grounds for companies like Startlink in Pakistan, he said. “There’s a lot that could have been done.”

This area unfortunately has also been neglected like many others, he said.

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