Floods are the “beginning of rebirth”

Pakistanis apparently ignore all laws, those of nature even

A Letter from Prometheus

When I am writing this letter, Pakistan is already under massive flood waters and facing a much bigger catastrophe than it faced during the 2010 floods. This is not the first time that flood waters are playing havoc with Pakistan and of course, it would not be the last time. Living without any planning and facing the worst kind of impact of climate change, Pakistan always welcomes natural disasters and is always prepared to host calamities.

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Almost 30 years ago when I came back after attending the Earth Summit (UN Conference on Environment and Development) held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1992, I wrote a series of articles in which I shared what international experts warned humanity about environmental changes and forthcoming global warming.

The Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit cautioned all nations that floods would be one of the reasons for mass killing and mass displacement of humans. I shared my viewpoint about cataclysms we could face in the future and they were of the view that such predictions were nothing new and were part of a greater “international conspiracy” against religions and developing countries. Even they claimed such summits are sponsored by the capitalist world to inject fear among poor countries. Since then, the time and events have testified that neither the idea of natural calamities brought by environmental changes was an international conspiracy nor was it anti-religion thought.

In May 2011, I presented my paper at the International Institute for Peace Through Tourism (IIPT) conference held in Lusaka, Zambia under the title of “Meeting the Challenges of Climate Change to Tourism”.  I raised the issue that mass tourism had been playing havoc with environments, predominantly in former NWFP (now KPK) where massive structural mass (constructions) had been built inside rivers by re-molding the width of rivers.

Blocking natural courses of water in the Swat River, Kabul River, Kunhar River and thousands of Nullahs (mountain torrents) resulted in an aggravated situation during the massive floods of 2010 because the natural course of water was choked by heavy illegal constructions under heavy rains and then water wiped out these structures (constructions) and brought them down the hills and destroyed every bridge that came in front of its hydro-force.

Since then, four massive floods in Swat had wiped out illegal constructions in Kalam, Bahrain, Midyan, and Mingora bazaars but massive illegal structures always came back after floods receded. I believe that there is virtually nobody in KPK that can ensure the implementation of environmental laws and the situation has become quite dangerous in the last 10 years of the PTI government in KPK because the majority of KPK parliamentarians belong to the hotel and tourism business and encroaching river land is not a big issue for them.

We still remember that 2010 floods damaged civic structures estimated at $4 billion, and wheat crop damages were estimated to be over $500 million. The total economic impact on Pakistan was estimated at over $43 billion while the original figures were much higher than the estimated figures. Corresponding reports that appeared in 2012-13 indicated a total impact on the Pakistani economy was over $60 billion.

The living situation in Pakistan is aggravating day by day due to massive growth in population, squeezing of forest and wildlife reserves, changing weather patterns, and lack of storage of drinking water.  How long would we survive in depleting environments? is a question I am asking myself without finding a reasonable answer. 

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For long, encroaching rivers, nullahs, and water channels have become a norm in Pakistan and one can see this practice even in the capital territory of Pakistan where Korang Nullah and Soan River (also known as the Swan river) have been eaten up by posh and powerful housing societies, and even areas in the foothills of Murree has been converted into housing schemes and farmhouses and construction of their road network has filled the natural courses of water in the area.

One can remember E-11/2 urban floods of 2021 but no action was taken against encroachers who remolded nullahs and no demolition was done to clear the area from unnatural remodelling of water channels. Interestingly, the Punjab government had planned a new city by remodelling River Ravi to mint money and land has already been given to the private sector to play havoc with the natural course of River Ravi. Some of my friends living in Karachi claim that over 30 percent of Karachi spread after 1985 by encroaching sea paths, creeks, rivers, and nullahs. I have every reason to believe we as a nation give a damn to every law, including the law of nature, and we do not wish to learn any lesson from history. Human history tells thousands of stories of the “Wrath of Nature” when humans did not stop manipulating Nature more than it could bear.

Almost all religions connect massive floods that human history faced with the “curse of divine power” to punish mankind for its wrongdoings. We remember the prophet Noah and the Great Flood. Noah’s mission was to warn his people, who were plunged into depravity and sin. As a prophet of God he preached the Message of Allah with zeal but his people refused to leave their bad habits and then they faced the Great Flood.

Greek mythology explains floods in a very fascinating way and links floods with the idea of the “beginning of rebirth” indicating that floods come to destroy nations that are no more acceptable by Nature.

Greek mythology interprets floods as the cleansing of earth from enemies of Mother Nature and says that great floods are usually sent by a deity or deities for destroying civilization, often in an act of divine retribution. Greek philosophers, while explaining such myths, said that flood waters are described as a measure for the cleansing of humanity, in preparation for rebirth. The Greek god of water is Deucalion who was assigned to keep clean the earth. No doubt there are 3000 river gods, in Greek mythology and they are known as “Potamoi” but the most popular Potamoi was Achelous who was chief among his 3,000 brothers. Achelous was also responsible to maintain balance on earth, a balance that can comfort Nature.

We should remember that myths are crafted through experiences and then get the blending of storytelling therefore, one should learn also from myths and mythological characters.

Do we remember the Global Climate Risk Index has placed Pakistan in the fifth spot on the list of countries most vulnerable to climate change in its annual report for the year 2020? According to the report, Pakistan witnessed 152 extreme weather events from 1999 to 2018.

The living situation in Pakistan is aggravating day by day due to massive growth in population, squeezing of forest and wildlife reserves, changing weather patterns, and lack of storage of drinking water.  How long would we survive in depleting environments? is a question I am asking myself without finding a reasonable answer.

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Agha Iqrar Haroon
Agha Iqrar Haroon
The writer is an international award winning journalist who has been in the field since 1988 and appears in national and international media as analyst and political scientist.

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