Climate change: biggest of all threats to Pakistan?

Parts of Punjab particularly in the South are also reeling from the disaster

Kamran Yousaf August 29, 2022
The writer is a senior foreign affairs correspondent at The Express Tribune

From north to the south, Pakistan is in the midst of a natural catastrophe. Floods triggered by unprecedented rains during the ongoing monsoon season have caused havoc. Districts after districts and villages after villages in Sindh and Balochistan have been inundated with flood water.

Parts of Punjab particularly in the South are also reeling from the disaster. In the North the situation is getting worse too. The video of a famous hotel in the scenic Swat region being swept away by gushing water within seconds indicates the ferocity of the floods. There has been a high degree of flood in Swat and Kabul rivers threatening populations. Water has entered low lying areas of Charsadda and Nowshera districts. Thousands have been moved to safer locations but many more have been struggling to find temporary shelter. There have been flash floods in Gilgit-Baltistan too. Many bridges and roads have been washed away disrupting the routine life.

Who should be blamed for the disaster? Climate change? Climate change certainly has played a central role. This time, Pakistan went straight into summers with no spring. The unusual heatwave in March and April caused havoc with crops. Wheat, mango and other crops were affected by the unusually warm weather. While millions were struggling to cope with the unusual heatwave, the monsoon struck, in June. As per the country’s climate change minister, usually Pakistan has 3 to 4 cycles of rains in the monsoon. This season, however, Pakistan is already in the midst of an 8th cycle and there are fears of another one in the first two weeks of September.

Sindh has received close to 800% more rain in August than average. Balochistan has received nearly 500% more rain this season. Overall Pakistan has received 200% more monsoon rains. No country even the most advanced could have dealt with such relentless rains. It is unimaginable that Pakistan, a developing country having no infrastructure or planning, can cope up with the challenge. But better planning and preparedness could certainly have minimised the damage. Despite early warning systems and a history of natural disasters, Pakistan has never paid much attention to climate change. The hotel in Swat valley that was swept away was built virtually on the riverbed. It is an open secret how easy it is in our country to encroach upon land and violate the building codes. Therefore it is not a surprise that the hotel and many other buildings were built in complete disregard to the rules and environmental considerations.

In recent years there has been a rise in domestic tourism. Tens of thousands of people because of better communications and mobility now visit tourist spots in the north. To cater to the mushroom growth of tourists, new hotels have sprung up in big numbers. Take the example of Kaghan Valley. In recent years new infrastructures have been built from Balakot right up to the Babusar Top. Naran Bazaar is now giving a look of any other congested city. When you arrive in the scenic valley you don’t get the sense that there is any sort of planning involved or any authority is there to regularise those cemented structures. There is hardly any space for new structures in Naran Bazaar and as a result new buildings are being constructed on the way between Naran to Babusar. The new structures like other places of Kaghan valley have been destroying the ecosystem rapidly. Those infrastructures are not only destroying the natural beauty but causing frequent landslides and floods in those areas. Glaciers are melting fast. This situation only adds to the complexity of the climate change challenges.

The heatwave this season and the ravaging floods will become a norm in the future. Pakistan is facing multiple challenges that cover politics, economy and national security but one single issue that can overshadow all other problems undoubtedly is the negative fallout of climate change. Are we ready to face this monstrous problem?


Published in The Express Tribune, August 29th, 2022.

Like Opinion & Editorial on Facebook, follow @ETOpEd on Twitter to receive all updates on all our daily pieces.


Replying to X

Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.

For more information, please see our Comments FAQ