Heavy rains return to Pakistan, raising concerns about flood preparedness

Four months after the 2022 Pakistan floods, many areas in Chor Kamber village, Dadu, Sindh, Pakistan are still flooded.

Four months after the 2022 Pakistan floods, many areas in Chor Kamber village, Dadu, Sindh, Pakistan are still flooded. Assistance limited. People can get in and out by boat only. Image from Flickr by Julien Harnels. CC BY-SA 2.0.

With the rising temperatures in the political arena, Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD) forecasted that various parts of Pakistan would experience heavy rainfalls, thunderstorms, and lightning after the country experienced an extreme heatwave from June 20th–25th. The Met Office warned of heavy rainfall between June 25th–30th, heightening the risk of urban flooding in low-lying areas across all provinces and triggering concerns of landslides in vulnerable regions. The forecast was accurate and tragically, just before Eid ul Adha, a Muslim religious festival, 23 people died in different parts of Pakistan due to rain and floods, including 11 people who died after being struck by lightning.

On June 24th, the Federal Minister for Climate Change and Environment Sherry Rehman requested people to stay away from weak infrastructure and stay indoors to avoid any unfortunate incidents:

Due to the heavy rain, different areas of Lahore, the capital of Punjab Province, experienced significant flooding. Life in the city had come to a standstill, even newly constructed underpasses were inundated with water due to the lack of a proper drainage system.

On Twitter, some users expressed their dissatisfaction with the government, voicing their grievances. Other users, like journalist Usman Khan, tried to keep it light by sharing memes:

PNN, a Pakistani news channel, released a video showcasing the General Hospital flooded with water:

Usman Ahmad, a Twitter user, shared a meme:

Prime Minister (PM) Shehbaz Sharif took notice of the flooding and directed the provincial and district authorities to take action immediately and address people's grievances.

Earlier the Pakistan Meteorological Departm­ent (PMD) also issued a warning for flash floods and glacial lake outburst floods in northern areas due to rising temperatures and asked all departments to remain vigilant and prepare for emergencies. PMD also warned that in July 2023, Pakistan should expect slightly above-normal rainfall and increasing temperatures nationwide.

Heatwave:

On June 21, 2023, National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) and PMD issued a cautionary advisory, urging people to minimize exposure to extreme heat and avoid unnecessary travel. As temperatures were projected to reach up to 50 degrees Celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit), an emergency was declared in hospitals within the capital city of Islamabad. Despite the warnings, 22 people still lost their lives due to heatstroke in Mardan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and Islamabad.

Climate activist Hassan Aftab tweeted:

The impact of Climate Change:

This is not the first time Pakistan has experienced drastic weather fluctuations. Last year Pakistan suffered the worst floods since 2010, which killed 1,700 people. The floods caused widespread destruction of homes, damage to farmland, and a substantial economic setback, which the country hasn't recovered from completely. This year seems no different and the public is concerned about the government's ability to effectively handle the situation.

Khairpur Nathan Shah city covered with flood water in Sindh in Pakistan 2022. Image from Flickr by Ali Hyder Junejo. CC BY 2.0.

Khairpur Nathan Shah city covered with flood water in Sindh in Pakistan 2022. Image from Flickr by Ali Hyder Junejo. CC BY 2.0.

Last year PM Shehbaz Sharif issued a statement at COP27, the UN's largest annual climate conference, and highlighted how Pakistan was suffering due to global warming. According to European Union data, Pakistan is responsible for less than 1 percent of the world’s planet-warming gases yet it is paying a hefty price.

Worries about preparedness:

On June 15th, the PMD issued warnings regarding severe cyclonic storm Biparjoy's potential impact on the coastal region of Sindh. In response, the provincial government successfully evacuated 60,000 people from vulnerable areas and issued alerts to relevant departments and hospitals. This time the Sindh government displayed a higher level of preparedness and vigilance. However, the cyclone dissipated without causing any damage.

In contrast, Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa's actions indicate their lack of preparedness, as they appear to be primarily focused on the upcoming elections. Despite the alerts and flood warnings, the preparedness for the upcoming heavy rains in many provinces remains uncertain.

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