Friday, August 27, 2010

An analysis on Pakistan flood- Our Science, the catastrophe and future trend

The increasing number of extreme events in Pakistan, China and Russia show that climate change impacts in this region are more visible now. The people of Pakistan are facing a second time natural disaster during the past decade in shape of massive flooding in August 2010, after the devastating earthquake in 2005. Unlike the death toll in earthquake of 2005 (80,000 people), human lose in the Pakistan flood is much lower (approximately 1600). However, According to the UN, the displacement and economic lose is more than loses of the Tsunami and the earthquakes of Haiti and Pakistan. UN Secretary General called the Pakistan flood as a slow motion Tsunami where more than 20 million people have been affected. There are number of factors that triggered Pakistan flood, however three are more important; Changing weather/shift in monsoon system in Pakistan due to climate change, Geography of the country and poor flood management system and Lack of community’ capacity to cope with the flood devastation.

Weather change in Pakistan: Pakistan average temperature increase recorded since 1900 has reached 1 degree Celsius, which is more than the global average temperature increase. In May 2006, Multan temperature scored 52 degree Celsius, while in May 2010, Mehenjodaro temperature reached to the record 54 degree Celsius in the history of Pakistan. According to the climate scientists, one of the major impacts of climate change in South Asian region, including Pakistan will be the shift in the monsoon pattern and abnormal rainfall. According to the Pakistan metrological department, during the last 40 years, precipitation has decreased 10 to 15 percent in the plain arid and coastal areas while increased in the northern parts. The current flood in Pakistan is the example of climate shift, while some scientists are also saying that this is a kind of natural disaster that happens once in the century. Scientists also believe that each and every single natural disaster cannot be attributed to the climate change, however massive flooding in Pakistan due to abnormal monsoon rainfall has connections with the changes in the earth ecosystem due to global warming and climate change.

According to Qamar Zaman, director general of Pakistan metrological department, an abnormal monsoon system from Bay of Bengal entered into Pakistan and a rainfall of about 400 millimeters (16 inches) in mountainous areas in the far north of Pakistan and adjoining parts of Afghanistan between July 28 and 29 triggered a torrent of water down the Indus and Kabul Rivers, which was a record in the history of Pakistan. Explaining the possible links of Pakistan flood with the climate change, Qamar Zaman said “the area very rarely receives monsoon rains," pointing to the risk of the monsoon belt shifting as well as changes in the intensity of the monsoon. He said the current floods could also be blamed to some degree on deforestation and more people living in flood-prone areas as the population keeps growing. Pakistan has lost vast areas of forest over the past few decades, while overgrazing often strips degraded land of whatever plant cover is left.

Future trend in South Asian region and Pakistan: According to the scientists, in coming years, monsoon rains in Pakistan will be more abnormal and unexpected. Climate models show that heavy monsoon precipitation has increased in frequency in Pakistan and western India during the recent years. In July 2005, Mumbai was deluged by almost 950mm of rain in just one day, and more than 1,000 people were killed in floods in the state of Maharashtra. Last year, deadly flash floods hit northwestern Pakistan, and Karachi was also flooded. According to the scientists, the global warming will increase the trend of extremes of rainfall which is a growing worldwide trend. Looking at the climatic trends in South Asia, in addition to more extreme rainfall, there is also a reduction of ice over the Tibetan plateau and changing precipitation patterns, with less snow at higher levels, plus more rapid run-off from mountains. The monsoon winds and precipitation can be higher in north-west India and Pakistan and weaker in the north-east. This year with the strong rainfall in the north-west, there is no pronounced decrease in the north-east.

The geography and flood management in Pakistan: The geography of the country, together with the poor flood management system makes this country more vulnerable to floods in Pakistan. The catchment area of the River Swat and Kabul together with melting of glaciers in north increase flow of river water during the monsoon and summer season in the five rivers system and put a large population at risk, living near the rivers. Siltation in rivers has also reduced their capacity. According to the scientists, Sindh River was a monster river some 6000 years before, and then some 4000 years before, its large part dried up. Some scientists believe that changing weather pattern can once again make Sindh River the monster one. In January 1977, Pakistan established Federal Flood Commission, under the ministry of Water and Power for the purpose of integrated flood management on the country wide basis. However, the performance of the commission has remained very disappointing.

Pakistan has a good irrigation system from the five different rivers flowing in the country; however, it lacks proper rainwater harvesting or storage system, particularly to conserve water in the northern and catchments areas. Lack of political will, controversy over the issues of dams’ constructions and lesser attention towards utilizing rain and river waters in more efficient ways lead to wastage of rivers’ water which go down and fall into Arabian Sea without any use. Pakistan forest cover is only 4.7%, while according to the federal minister of environment; annual 14000h forest is depleted in Pakistan which is also a matter of high concern. Massive deforestation also contributed in the flash flood in Pakistan. In Addition, the rainfall was more than 10 times of the rivers’ capacity which had to find its way out towards the plain areas at the both sides of the rivers.

Lack of community capacity: The flood of August 2010 rendered more than 20 million people in Pakistan vulnerable and helpless. So far the estimates by the government show that 1600 people died due to the massive flooding. More than 1000 people died only in KPK provinces, which is more than 60% of total human loses in the aftermath of flood. It is interesting to analyze that the flood hit the KPK province first and due to the lack of early warning system, less time for evacuation and lack of community’ awareness about changing weather pattern, more people died in the KPK. The scale of flooding was also immense in the provinces of Punjab and Sindh, however relatively on time information, the communities could make it possible to evacuate from the risky location, thus having fewer casualties than the KPK, however, are now more vulnerable due to absence of immediate needs like shelter, food and health.

People living near the rivers bank are more vulnerable due to potential risk of flooding. Poverty and unawareness are the other factors which limit the communities’ capacity to take appropriate adaptation measures and protect themselves from the devastation of natural disasters such as floods. According to the Andrew Ash, who leads a climate adaption programme for Australia's state-funded research body the CSIRO, “Pakistan, like any flood-prone country, needed early warning systems, better storage of drinking water, even to move people from vulnerable areas”. Even if the option is to move from the locations, it is difficult for the poor families to leave the areas as they can’t afford new construction or they don’t have resources (cash, land etc). Climate Change adaptation in this situation is vital for the people of Pakistan.

Monday, August 23, 2010

May our children not be afraid of clouds next time

I love photography and I love to capture the beauty of nature through my camera’ eye… It was the evening of 27th July and I left my office to go back to home. The pleasant cloudy evening with cool breeze made me totally forgot that it was actually a hot summer in my country. I was walking on a link road, having a widespread land of green fields on its rights side. While looking far the mountain and clouds surrounding its peak, I couldn’t stop myself to take my camera from my bag and I took a few photographs that time. I really wanted to capture the beautiful scenery of the nature that time.
While going back to my home and looking at the photographs in my camera, I was thinking how lucky I am to live in such an amazing and God gifted part of this world. I used to transfer photographs from my camera to my online collection of photographs on the very night, but this time that I couldn’t do this.

I never knew the clouds that are gathering around the hill peaks would bring a lot of monsoon rain in my country and will make about 20 million of my country men, women and children homeless. I never knew the rain we used to love every summer to reduce the heat intensity would actually make our people more expose to sun’ rays after the massive flooding would sweep away thousands of houses that our people constructed to live a happy life. I never knew the monsoon this year will be more devastating that will bring almost half of my country under the flood water.

While writing this all now, I still believe that the nature has never been bad to the human beings, nor the clouds that come and give us rain water are bad. I will never say that the water, being the gift of God, has taken lives of so many innocent people, little children and smashed out their houses. Water is life and it is the blessing of God for every one of us. I just believe in a very simple formula that, if we disturb the nature, the nature will disturb us. It is even not the human being whom we would consider accountable to disturb the nature, rather these are those un-natural acts that create problems for the human beings- the acts of emitting greenhouse gases, cutting of trees and disturbing the nature.

I really loved to hear this yesterday that a thief is not a bad person, but it is actually the act that the thief do. He is not bad because he is a human being and creature of God. So we really need to change those practices that make our nature disturbed. Today, as I see half of my country under the water and people struggling to find a safe place and children crying for food and water, I would never blame human beings to be responsible for all this, rather I would condemn those practices in the name of so called development that can make the lives of fewer one prosperous but create lots of hardships in the lives of many, such as the 20 million people in Pakistan who are without any shelter, food and clean drinking water.

With a big heart to see and feel all the miseries and hardships, I would still give this message to everyone in this world that; love the nature and the human beings who belong to it. Make this world a place worth living for everyone. May our children not be afraid of clouds next time, but to always welcome the love of nature in its all fullness.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Action against Climate Change is the only option…

According to the United Nations, 460 million dollars are needed on emergency basis to respond to flood crisis in Pakistan. UN estimated this amount in his Emergency Response Plan to cope with the immediate needs raised after the worse ever devastation due to unexpected monsoon rains started in the last week of July 2010.

Initial assessment show that damages after the flood are more than the 2005’ earthquake of Pakistan and of Tsunami. UN estimated about 14 million people affected across Pakistan. Only in Punjab province 8 million people are affected. Numbers of affected people in KPK province are 4.72 million, Sindh 1.1 million, Baluchistan 2.7 million, Kashmir 24,000 and Northern Area 8,000 people. Numbers of destroyed houses in Punjab province are 84,000, KPK 172,000, Baluchistan 20,000, Kashmir 4,000 and Northern Areas, 1,000 houses. Women, little children and people with disability have become extremely vulnerable in this situation.

The flash appeal of UN is required for food, drinking water, shelter, sanitation, health and non food items for flood survivors. Some 1200 people died due to massive flooding and collapse of houses. Only in KPK district, 9000mm rain has been recorded in one week which the province usually receive entire year. There is a big risk of food crisis after damages to crops, while outbreak of water born diseases is getting high after the flooding. According to the UN, humanitarian crisis may hit high due to food shortage and water born diseases.

This is all what our people are facing due to unexpected weather patterns resulting from climate change. Lack of government capacity to respond to this humanitarian crisis will exacerbate the situation. For me and many, immediate support to flood survivors is vital, however, until the world leadership don’t become serious to take action against climate change and side by side, governments become more efficient and transparent in good governance, tragedies like in Pakistan will continue to hit the dignity of people around the world due to man-made natural disasters.

Photo: Guardian

Monday, August 2, 2010

Climate Catastrophe in Pakistan.... Media' eye on buildings' collapse

The unexpected heavy monsoon rains in Pakistan continue to do more damages to properties and lose of precious human lives in the Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa province of Pakistan. According to media, about 2.5 million people have been affected while about 1500 died due to heavy monsoon rains, flooding and collapse of houses.

A local media personal have captured how buildings are collapsing due to the flood. It’s just another face of helplessness for those poor women, children and their families affected from the catastrophe.

Thanks to Pakistan army and United States of America for start of emergency response and reaching people and rescuing them from the flood affected areas. Still lots of people are trapped and need evacuation, food and first aid.

Photo: Sky News

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Before you go to Mexico...

Sorry if it frustrates some one...

What has happened:

According to the Pakistan Television News, death toll due to deadly and unexpected monsoon may cross 1500. More than 1000 precious lives are confirmed dead, while 2.5 millions people are affected. Dams already filled, roads, bridges, houses, crops, livestock, every thing almost vanished in most parts of KPK and Baluchistan province in particular. Punjab, Sindh to be the next victim…

Why this is happening:

Besides the fact that every year monsoon rains affect Pakistan with flooding and landslide but this time the disaster was worse in history of last 34 years. The simple answer is CLIMATE CHANGE. CLIMATE CHANGE bring adverse and unexpected disasters due to global emission of greenhouse gases from burning of fossil fuel, deforestation, industrial pollution etc. This global environmental pollution causes global warming and changes earth echo-system. The outcome is more frequent and deadly disasters, particularly in poor countries.

CLIMATE CHANGE and flooding in Pakistan:

According to Pakistan Met Department, current monsoon spell is unexpected which caused massive destruction in the country. While the regular monsoon spell will start from August 2, 2010, means more damages to happen.

Who is doing this:

Of course this disaster and all others are not because of our sin (mis-perception). The reality is that the UNEXPECTED MONSOON IS THE RESULT OF GLOBAL CARBON EMISSION AND ENVIRONMENTAL POLLUTION caused by the few rich and developing countries of the world.

Responsibility of Pakistan government and the world:

Pakistan government is responsible to expedite response and accountable to reach each and every affectee for early recovery. Government is also responsible for doing necessary pre-arrangements to protect our people from flooding and landslide that happen every year. But this is ACTUALLY the responsibility of the world countries, particularly those who are responsible for historical and current global carbon emission/environmental pollution to control/reduce their dirty pollution of greenhouse gases so that countries like Pakistan do not face such disasters.

Last words:

We ask Pakistan government to increase disaster response and don't wait for next year flooding. Do something before the next disaster. Don't let the disaster management authorities to take rest in eleven months and then run here and there in the monsoon month.

We ask the responsible countries to control environmental pollution and don't let us to pay for their so called development on our lives. We ask world nations to reach binding and fair agreement on CLIMATE CHANGE in the upcoming MEXICO SUMMIT this December 2010.

My question is, if you can't reach to a fair agreement then why don't you simply cancel your trip to Mexico? At least some carbon emission will be reduced if you don't travel, do not stay and consume energy in Mexico COP16...

Thank you

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