Death toll in rains reaches 77 in country

ISLAMABAD – Terming the loss of deaths due to current monsoon rains as “national tragedy”, Federal Minister for Climate Change Sherry Rehman said these rains have claimed 77 lives including 39 in Balochistan province.

“Pakistan is experiencing 87 percent increase in monsoon rainfall than average this year. We have seen the occurrence of 16 Glacial Lake Outburst Flood (GLOF),” said the minister addressing a press conference.

Sharing the details, the minister said heavy rains have killed 39 people and injured more than 35 in rain-related incidents in Balochistan. Three women and four children are amongst those killed. A total number of death toll from monsoon rains has risen to 77 from 14th June up till now, she said.

While in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, she said flash flooding occurred due to GLOF events in Shaidas and Harchin nullahs at Laspur valley. Commuters and tourists were stranded in Laspur Valley after taking part in the Shandur Polo Festival as the main roads were submerged under flood water. “Relief teams are on the ground to repair the road as soon as possible and open routes to enable tourists to leave for their next destination, “ She said.

Minister said that the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) has prepared a national monsoon contingency plan, but also called on the people to stay alert to prevent further damage. “We need a comprehensive plan to avert these [deaths and devastation] as all of this destruction is taking place due to climate change,” she said.

Minister Rehman praised the timely warning and data generated by NDMA on the onset of heavy rains and windstorms all over the country. “It is not within the mandate of the Ministry of Climate Change to conduct relief and rescue during these times but to ensure coordination and timely generation of early warning,” she asserted.

She maintained that the concerned departments will continue to exercise vigilance and provide necessary information to avoid further damages and loss of life throughout the duration of the monsoon season. She said it is important that during the peak monsoon and tourism season, authorities in both federal and provincial areas remain vigilant and alert for immediate action in anticipation of any incident. The minister said that the GLOF and flash floods are happening in Gilgit Baltistan including land and rock slides leading to damages and road blockages in Hunza, Nagar, Skardu, Shigar and Ghanche, and GB authorities and FWO are working round the clock for clearance of debris and necessary repairs. Restoration of the bridge is also in progress in Hunza, she added.

Highlighting the situation in Sindh, federal minister remarked, “Sindh has received 261percent more rains than average while Balochistan has received 274percent which is the highest so far. Average temperatures are based on 30 years of dataset so we can see that this is very high. “We are the 5th most vulnerable country to climatic change. We were talking about heat waves just a few weeks ago and forest fires, and now we have dived into GLOF and flash floods,” she said.

Referring to water crisis, the minister said if the current streak of water-stress continues, we are likely to face   water scarcity by 2025.

“We have presented the National Hazardous Waste Policy, and we are ensuring that no NOC is given to the imported waste that was previously being illegally dumped in Pakistan,” she said.

The federal minister maintained that there was a need to expedite efforts to use water wisely. She informed that the Ministry of Climate Change has launched an ambitious ‘Living Indus’ initiative along with the Indus Recharge project that will involve recharging and cleaning our major rivers. Both the projects have been shared with the provinces for consultation. “A lot of work is in the pipeline for us to make policies that will place adaptation at the core of our efforts to minimise and mitigate further exposure to risk,” she contended.

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