Climate change: Human activities taking a toll on nature

Met dept fears flash floods in eastern areas of capital.

Waqas Naeem July 24, 2013
Margalla Hills which have been undergoing severe deforestation in last several years. PHOTO: FILE


The eastern parts of the federal capital received heavy rains once again on Wednesday as the fifth spell of the ongoing monsoon season began in the twin cities.

The Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD) recorded 93 millimetre (mm) rain at Saidpur in Islamabad and 75mm in Rawalpindi.

This is the third time during July that Saidpur has received rainfall above 50mm. On July 20, an unprecedented 218 mm was recorded at the village, which falls in eastern Islamabad. Similarly, on July 7, the city’s eastern region witnessed around 105mm of rain.

PMD’s National Weather Forecasting Centre Director Dr Muhammad Hanif, told The Express Tribune that even though the average rainfall in Saidpur is historically much more than rain recorded in the main city, the current spells of rain are exceptional in nature.

“The rains received by the eastern parts of Islamabad this month are unusual,” Hanif said. “The situation is alarming for urban flash flooding for the eastern half of the capital.”

Hanif said Islamabad’s eastern areas had seen extreme flash flooding in 2012, which was repeated this year. The 218mm rain on Saturday flooded some areas of the city around the Prime Minister’s Staff Colony, the Sitara Market in G-7 as well as places along the Embassy and Margalla roads.

On the other hand, the western parts of the city, such as Golra, have consistently received very little rain fall. For example, on Wednesday, Golra received only 5mm rain. An as-yet unpublished PMD research study has tried to look at the factors at this east-west disproportionate rain in Islamabad.

“We think the land use changes in Islamabad’s surrounding areas, especially the new housing schemes being constructed east of the Islamabad Highway, are contributing towards an increase in the frequency of extreme events in the capital,” Hanif, who is an author of the study, said. “Most of the green areas are being taken over by building structures which is causing this variation.”

He also blamed construction, deforestation, stone crushing and human activities in the Margalla Hills National Park for putting the city at risk of extreme weather events.

These activities should be stopped immediately if the vulnerability from climate events is to be reduced, Hanif said.

Officials of the Capital Development Authority’s (CDA) Environment Wing, however, blamed pressure from influential quarters for their inability to curb illegal construction in the park.

Housing societies are required to restrict residential areas to 55 per cent of total land and ensure that at least eight per cent is allocated for green areas but most do not follow these regulations, mainly due to weak enforcement on part of the CDA and the Islamabad Capital Territory administration.

On Wednesday, CDA’s Fire and Rescue unit officers said they received calls of flooding from Fazl-e Haq Road near China Chowk and from Margalla Road on Wednesday. The eight-foot high wall of the Federal Government Primary School number 5, in sector G-6/2, also collapsed during heavy rains on Tuesday night.

CDA officials said drain pipes get choked during heavy rains as the amount of water gushing through the pipes is much more than their designed capacity.

A Fire and Rescue officer said they have pumping machines that can remove standing water if the water level is one or 1.5 feet deep but if the level rises more than that, the machines are useless.

PMD meteorologists said the twin cities have received five spells of rains so far during the first half of the monsoon season, including three “good” spells --- rainfall above 50mm is considered a good spell by meteorologists. The first half of the monsoon season will last till July 31 and the second half, which is predicted to bring slightly above-normal rainfall, will come down from August 1 till mid-September, according to meteorologists.

Furthermore, PMD officials predict thundershowers in scattered places and isolated heavy rain falls in Rawalpindi and Islamabad over the next 48 hours. The monsoon currents from Arabian Sea and Bay of Bengal are reaching into central & upper parts of the country, the PMD has stated.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 25th, 2013.

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