- And the rainy season brings other calamities
After passing through a smog-affected period that for a while pushed Lahore and Karachi into the category of the most hazardous cities in the world, a severe cold wave spread all over Pakistan. Mercury levels dropped in Skardu to as low as -21°C, breaking a 25-year-old record. Snowstorms and rains hit large parts of AJK and Balochistan. In AJK heavy snowfall and avalanches destroyed habitations and blocked roads. In Balochistan equally heavy snowfall accompanied by torrential rains burst small dams leading to the flooding of nearby habitations. Evacuating the trapped people in AJK and Balochistan has been an arduous task. The snowfall and rains have also led to casualties in KP and Punjab. Over 100 people are reportedly dead so far all over the country.
With highways, roads and pathways covered with snow, at places more than 2 feet thick, it is taking time to restore communications. This has made the rescuers’ task difficult There is a possibility of casualties turning out to be much higher after rescuers manage to reach far-flung localities and hamlets at high altitudes. While local volunteers and the Army are playing an important role in rescue work , little is known about the performance of the NDMA and its provincial chapters.
Climate change is responsible for shifting and intensifying the centuries-old weather patterns in Pakistan. The areas with lesser rainfall are having downpours causing flooding, while those known for ample rainfall, face drought-like conditions. Last year the rainy season led to over 160 killed in monsoon-triggered heavy rains. In Karachi torrential rains caused urban flooding by inundating low-lying areas and main thoroughfares, killing dozens of people.
To deal with disasters caused by climate change Pakistan needs to have a full-fledged ministry of climate manned by a knowledgeable minister rather than a party activist who spends most of the time in political polemics. The ministry should also have the support of a modern weather forecasting system and a more efficient NDMA that creates awareness among the population likely to be affected by the vagaries of the weather. In areas of the sort the NDMA has also to conduct exercises among the local population, aimed at dealing with disasters.