As the floodwater is rushing relentlessly towards lower Punjab, the authorities are racing against time to save the cities of Multan and Shorkot. Destroying dykes in certain places to ease the pressure and beefing up defences in other portions, the government is in damage-control mode. Apart from stop-gap contingency plans like diverting rivers and deploying rescue operations, the government lacks a comprehensive plan, and any clear understanding of what causes the floods.
In recent years the floods have come thick and fast, in 2010, 2011, 2012 and now in 2014. This has coincided with a pattern of extremely erratic monsoon and extreme weather conditions. The changing global climate due to high amounts of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is the culprit; something our government departments are aware of. The former Director-General of the Pakistan Meteorological Department and also the lead author of Pakistan’s National Climate Change Policy (NCCP), Dr Qamar-uz-Zaman Chaudhry says that climate change has cause a high-intensity, late monsoon. A country that suffers from such widespread devastation every few years should rank climate change amongst its top priorities. Sadly political motivation and basic scientific understanding is missing; the government in 2013 shelved the NCCP. With countries like China and USA dithering on climate change reform, politicians in third-world countries like Pakistan wont have the stomach for hard decisions. But being a signatory of the Kyoto Protocol and still in the process of industrialization, it is easier to be environment friendly now than later.
According to a UN report, for the first time since 1980 the ozone layer is improving. In the face of a global crisis of the thinning of the ozone layer the world came together to ban the use of Chlorofluorocarbons. Despite the fact that it meant looking for alternatives, closing down industries and letting the economy suffer. In 1980 the world vacillated just like it is now, but political motivation led to change. It is hard to imagine Pakistan, where we haven’t even been able to secure fundamental human rights, to campaign for climate change reform. But looking at the sheer human cost, maybe it should.