The latest bout of rains have killed no less than 27 people in Balochistan, with Climate Change Minister Sherry Rehman reporting a total number of 77 dead countrywide, after the country received 77 percent more rains since June 14. With the monsoon not having broken yet, and with the country undergoing an unprecedented heat wave, this should serve as a double wake-up call.
The first wake-up call is specific to Balochistan. The ill-preparedness of the province for the rains has much to do with the fact that the province is so poor. Because it does not have many seats in Parliament, and because MNAs are expected to fight for provincial funds, it does not bet much federal largesse. Also, because governments in Quetta are not formed without interference from certain quarters, they are not representative, and thus unable to provide the province with a normal mechanism for handling the floods. True, a lot of the houses are of mud, and under-development is partially because development money does not yield as great results as in other provinces, because the population is small and widely spread out. But a more natural government would yield better results.
The other wake-up call is for the country as a whole. While Balochistan has been worst hit so far, the coming monsoon will test all four provinces. Just as the recent heat wave is just the shape of things to come, in that it is expected to recur in coming years, it should be realized that monsoonal flood damage is also expected to rise as the climate changes. Monsoon flooding might get worse, but it is hardly something new. The preparations for next year’s monsoons should have begun, and those for this year’s should already be in place. After all, the authorities have had several months to prepare for this year’s floods. These floods come along with the monsoons every year, after all, and are fairly predictable. That may well be their only virtue.