Climate stresses in Pakistan

Extreme weather is adversely affecting 15% of the population. Some two million are expected to internally migrate by 2050.

The ten countries with the greatest long-term climate risk or in descending order Puerto Rico, Myanmar, Haiti, Philippines, Pakistan, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Thailand, Nepal, and Dominica. This posting deals with Pakistan.

Heat: “in Jacobabad, Sindh Province, Pakistan, temperatures surpassed a threshold that was “too hot for human tolerance”. The thermometer read over 52 degrees C (126 degrees F) with humidity. Experts note that if this temperature persists for more than a few hours, it could result in organ failure or even death. This milestone was reached far sooner than scientists and climate models had predicted. Jacobabad is one of two cities known to have crossed this threshold. Additionally, their research indicates that “this region of Pakistan along the Indus Valley is believed to be particularly vulnerable to climate change”, causing temperatures to rise even further in the near future.” (Go here.)

“Jacobabad, home to some 300,000 people, is one of two cities on Earth that researchers say recently passed heat and humidity thresholds above what the human body can tolerate. (The other is Ras al Khaimah in the United Arab Emirates.)” (Go here.)

Glacier melt: “Melting glaciers “are the biggest economic, human and national-security threat Pakistan will ever face,” said climate policy consultant Dawar Butt. Individuals residing in the northern region of Pakistan have noticed the glaciated margin pulling back further each year, part of the larger Himalayan and Karakoram glacial range that is in rapid retreat causing disasters throughout Pakistan, India, and Nepal.” (Go here.)

Rain: “By late August, writhing under a monsoon on steroids that was almost certainly exacerbated by climate change, a third of a country typically preoccupied with water shortages was drowning. Nearly 33 million people—one in seven Pakistanis—have been affected, with nearly eight million displaced. More than two thousand are dead, initially from rain-related accidents, then from waterborne diseases such as malaria and typhoid; the toll continues to climb. Pakistan has flooded before (the riverine floods of 2010, which ultimately killed nearly two thousand, were described as once-in-a-century), but it has never flooded at this scale, and never in so many ways at once.” (Go here.)

“From mid-June until the end of August 2022, large parts of Pakistan experienced record-breaking monsoonal rainfall, leading to large parts of the country being flooded. Pakistan is reported to have received more than 3 times its usual rainfall in August, making it the wettest August since 1961. The two southern provinces, Sindh and Balochistan, each experienced their wettest August ever recorded, receiving 7 and 8 times their usual monthly totals. The Indus river, that runs the length of the country, burst its banks across thousands of square kilometres, while the intense rainfall also led to urban flash floods, landslides.” (Go here.)

The historic irrigation system, up to 5,000 years old, is overwhelmed. “Pakistan’s overbuilt irrigation system is also a cause of chaos during disasters. In mid-September 2022, residents of villages near the town of Pangrio in southern Sindh, east of the Indus Delta, waited for word from authorities on whether or not to evacuate. Rain had not yet wrought extensive damage on their lands, but as the irrigation and drainage structures heaved to contain water—from upstream, from the western hill torrents, and from continued rains—news arrived of a sudden breach in the Left Bank Outfall Drain (another World Bank–funded project, intended to address waterlogging and salinity issues in upper Sindh). The breach brought the residents out of their homes, and they fled within hours. Leela Ram Kolhi, a local organizer, sent me a video of young villagers, water up to their calves, pushing an elderly man on a makeshift raft made from an upturned charpoy, buoyed by plastic water containers. (Go here.)