sharp cut in government funds for Pakistan’s main climate change agency may mean little to thousands of people in homes perched along a flood-prone river in the city of Rawalpindi. But it could tip them into crisis during the monsoon season that has just begun.
The natural river - known as Leh Nullah - doubles as a drain, and is now contaminated with rubbish and sewage. It has burst its banks several times in the past, severely damaging houses. The last time this happened was in July 2001, when flooding cost 35 lives and swept away several slum areas.
A few days earlier the country’s climate change ministry – which had only existed since April 2012 – was downgraded to a division. The Climate Change Division is part of the Federal Cabinet Secretariat which functions under the oversight of the prime minister.
The moves have drawn strong criticism from climate scientists, as well as local and international organisations working to boost the country’s resilience to climate impacts.
Three years of repeated floods have inflicted serious damage on Pakistan’s economy, halving its potential economic growth, an expert says.
“The impact of floods on Pakistan’s economy is colossal as the economy grew on average at a rate of 2.9 percent per year during the last three years,” said Ishrat Husain, an economist and director of the Institute of Business Administration in Karachi.
That is less than half the 6.5 percent that Pakistan could potentially have managed if it weren’t facing the economic and human losses associated with the flooding, Husain said.
Flooding is hardly the only impediment to economic growth in the troubled South Asian country. Worsening power shortages, “a poor law and order situation and a host of other structural impediments” also are holding back investment and growth, Husain said.
But extreme weather presents an especially worrying economic challenge, he said, because the country can work to reduce its energy crisis and improve law in order, but has limited scope to avert natural calamities, other than trying to devise effective mechanisms to minimise its losses.
Very encouraging to see Pakistani journalists coming together to report on the environment. Several have joined the National Council of Environmental Journalists, a global non-profit that trains journalists how to report and investigate environmental issues. If you’re interested in environmental reporting, perhaps you could like their facebook page and support this important project.
“The forum comprises on 30 journalists from 21 cities of Pakistan. NCEJ members are attached with mainstream newspaper (Including Dawn, Express Tribune, Awami Awaz, Daily Duyna, The Nation, Sindhi Koshish, Daily Ibrat and others), FM Radios, television channels of English, Urdu, Sindhi, Balochi, Pashtoo, Punjabi, Saraiki, Balti and Dari languages.
The forum was established in June 2012 during an Environmental Journalism Training Workshop. Visit our website www.ncejpak.org. On November 13, 2012, we have formally launched the forum in PC Hotel Karachi.”
"More than 30 cities across seven provinces in Pakistan signed up to the UNISDR World Disaster Reduction Campaign Making Cities Resilient on Saturday though many of them are still under water or recovering from heavy floods.
Among the cities joining the campaign are Karachi, Muzaffarabad, Dadu, Ghari Khairo, Tharparkar, Nowshera, Mnagora, Charsada, Oghi, Dera Ismail Khan, Loralai, Khudahr, and Ghizar. They have all agreed to commit to the ‘Ten Essentials’ of the campaign including assigning a budget for disaster risk reduction and protecting ecosystems and natural buffers to mitigate floods, storm surges and other hazards.
These cities have also pledged to the “One Million Safe Schools and Hospitals” initiative which encourages strengthening the safety of schools and hospitals from all types of natural hazards.
“Schools and hospitals are vital when disasters happen as they need to continue functioning when catastrophes hit. There is no small investment when it comes to these two types of infrastructure - they are crucial.” claimed Wahlström.
Some 870 cities and local government have now joined the UNISDR Making Cities Resilient Campaign and more than 138,000 institutions have already pledged support for the “One Million Safe Schools and Hospitals” initiative.”
The devastation of monsoon flooding in Pakistan… Above are some aerial photos, from The Atlantic’s InFocus blog, of the intense flooding damage done. This is not on the same scale as the terrible flooding of last year, but over 200 have died since August and more than 5 million people affected.
“An unexpected side-effect of the flooding in parts of Pakistan has been that millions of spiders climbed up into the trees to escape the rising flood waters.
Because of the scale of the flooding and the fact that the water has taken so long to recede, many trees have become cocooned in spiders webs. People in this part of Sindh have never seen this phenonemon before - but they also report that there are now less mosquitos than they would expect, given the amoungt of stagnant, standing water that is around.
It is thought that the mosquitos are getting caught in the spiders web thus reducing the risk of malaria, which would be one blessing for the people of Sindh, facing so many other hardships after the floods.”
In many hard-hit areas, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) was the first international emergency organization to respond to the devastating floods that swept through Pakistan in late July 2010. Along with local organizations, MSF teams were able to react immediately to meet the needs of people affected by the floods. Six months on, the needs of people have changed. Follow the link to see how MSF has adapted and is continuing to provide support to Pakistanis.