WEB DESK: In this monsoon season torrential rains have once again been playing havoc with public life. So far, flashfloods in the northern region have claimed at least 43 lives, and washed away homes in scores of villages.
During the heavy downpours in Karachi-something unusual for that part of the country-13 people were killed in rain-related incidents.
Meanwhile, the Met Office has forecast more rains for the coming days and the Federal Flood Commission warned of high to very high flood levels in Rivers Jehlum and Chenab. According to a report in this paper, flood waters from Chenab have already inundated vast areas in some 150 Punjab villages. District administrations in Sialkot and Gujranwala have declared an emergency, putting the rescue and relief personnel on alert. Better preparedness to deal with an impending threat of course is vital.
In Karachi, for instance, had the concerned authorities paid heed to the media reports – in the wake of warnings of heavy rains – about garbage heaps blocking the city’s storm drains, incessant rain would not have caused as much harm as it did.
This year’s torrential rains though are not a surprising occurrence but a manifestation of changing weather patterns. As predicted by environmental scientists, during the recent years Pakistan has been experiencing recurring devastating floods brought about by global warming. In fact Pakistan is among the ten countries most vulnerable to extreme weather events. Which are only going to get worse with the passage of time, causing alternating cycles of floods and droughts ultimately leading to severe water shortages.
Pakistan is already one of the world’s most water-stressed countries. The Indus River System Authority, acknowledging that the country is facing water scarcity, told the Senate last September that “Pakistan is becoming a water-stressed country as the per capita water availability has come down to below 1,000 cubic meters.” It is not difficult to see what the consequences would be for the country’s agrarian economy, food security, livelihoods, and social harmony.
Given the perils involved, the policymakers need to face up to the challenge of climate change in a resolute manner, shaking off their usual tendency to deal with all sorts of problems on an ad hoc basis. Climate change and water scarcity must become an integral part of both medium- and long-term planning. In a much belated move, the government recently announced its decision to establish a climate change authority which is to involve the chief ministers, and also launching of the Prime Minister’s Green Pakistan Programme to promote forestry.
These are important steps, but not enough. Preservation of water resources must also get serious attention. Water reservoirs need to be constructed wherever possible to utilise excess water forming floods, and rainwater harvesting popularised. It is about time the government did some fresh thinking and got rid of old and impracticable plans and projects (such as the controversial Kalabagh dam) so as to ensure the nation’s food and water security in the coming decades.
Source: Business Recorder