Balochistan’s climate change concerns

My Editorial for Balochistan Times on 19th May, 2019

Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan chaired a high profile meeting on climate change the other day. During the meeting he ordered conversion of some 30 per cent cars into electric vehicles. For this purpose prime minister also order establishment of electric plants for the first time in Pakistan. Chief Minister Balochistan Mr. Jam Kamal Khan Aliyani was also part of the meeting that deliberated upon climate change impacts. Climate change has become the most challenging issue of the modern world which worries specifically the developing countries and within those developing countries regions like Balochistan happen to be the most vulnerable.

Undoubtedly, the developed and industrialized countries are responsible for the producing much of the green house gases and carbon emission which has led to the rising temperatures in the world. As a consequence, the glaciers have begun to melt on the Polar Regions, giving rise to the sea levels and threatening the coastal populations. Moreover, the weather patterns have also changed considerably and human predictability of weather conditions has also been affected, leading to loss of crops, food insecurity and loss of jobs.

Contribution of third world countries like Pakistan may be meager to the global carbon emission and green house gases yet they are not secure from the hazards of the climate change. Chemicals, gases and toxic elements in atmosphere know no boundaries and they travel with the wind, affecting people equally in the contributor and non-contributor regions. The smog and fog that off and on grip various regions in Pakistan is a case in point of the polluted air that travels from countries like China and grips Pakistan for months, increasing the worries for common man on many front who is already hard pressed by unfriendly government policies. However, when it comes to Balochistan, the least developed province of the country, the situation is worse. The super flood of 2010 created havoc in entire country. According to estimates, the 2010 Pakistan floods directly affected an estimated 14-20 million people, and killed over 1,700. Nearly 1.1 million homes were damaged or destroyed, and at least 436 health care facilities were destroyed. The flooding lasted almost six months in some areas and caused $9.7 billion in damage in forty-six of the country’s 135 districts. In Balochistan, according to the information on Balochistan’s Provincial Disaster Management Authority’s (PDMA) website, around 50,000 people in 30 worst hit villages were affected by the flood. PDMA Balochistan had declared district Barkhan, Sibi, Kohlo, Bolan and Naseerabad as the flood affected districts where according to the available information 5000 to 10000 families were affected. From unofficial sources 50 deaths in the affected districts were also reported. The communication infrastructure had badly been affected, damaging the main roads and rail link in the province and there was no access to all the affected areas initially.

In Balochistan’s Naseerabad division such instances occurred repeatedly and forced many dwellers to forgo their traditional profession of agriculture and settle in the provincial capital for good. The influx of people who were displaced by floods in the provincial capital increased burden on already overpopulated city which is facing worst water shortage.

This and such other incidences show that people in Balochistan are highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. This vulnerability increases manifold when analysed on gender and age basis as women, children and old age fall victims to natural disasters the most.

Government of Balochistan as well as the Federal Government, therefore, should work on mitigation plans to reduce the vulnerability of vulnerable populations. The method of the PDMA Balochistan, so far, has been that of a disaster response which is required when a disaster occurs. Distribution of some food packages here and blankets there is not going to reduce the vulnerability of the masses. Neither PDMA nor District Administrations are seen doing any commendable job on the mitigation front. Environmental Management Engineers can be involved on this front so that they could go for risk assessment and then chalk out a plan to reduce the risk of the vulnerable population. The Government of Balochistan must think beyond conventional lines in terms of disaster management so that precious lives as well as local economy are saved from any permanent damage in the future.

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