Flooding in Pakistan: Thousands Without Homes

Climate Change and Flooding

Climate change has impacted natural climate systems globally. But what does this mean? Climate systems are facing extreme weather conditions with colder winters and hotter summers but also, stronger annual storms.

Pakistan is just one of many regions that experience annual monsoons. Monsoons are changes in the atmospheric circulation that results in weeks-long wet seasons with heavy rains. Though this part of the world experiences annual monsoons, they are currently at unprecedented levels, caused by the impact of climate change due to the increasing atmospheric moisture. Higher levels of moisture in the atmosphere mean heavier rains and storms. These heavier storms have resulted in detrimental flooding globally, especially in places like Pakistan.

Flooding in Pakistan

Pakistani residents have been experiencing internal displacement due to flooding dating back to 2010 after a torrential monsoon with rains about 100 percent above normal levels (Hartmann, 2010). During this flood in 2010, there were an estimated 1.7 million homes damaged with more than 20 million people affected, and had adverse effects on one-fifth of the entire country. Pakistan has about 2.6 percent of the world’s population and produces less than 1 percent of the world’s carbon emissions. On the other hand, the United States generates 13 percent of the world’s carbon emissions and only has 4 percent of the world’s population (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees). Pakistan has a much lower ecological footprint compared to more developed countries in the western world but is the victim of others’ negligent actions.

Flooding in Pakistan
Source: NYT

Pakistan Floods Today

These floods did not end in 2010, but instead, continue to this day. In June of this year (2022), Pakistan was once again hit with a catastrophic monsoon that killed over 1,500 people and left 6.4 million people without a home or a guaranteed meal. The waters reportedly destroyed homes in a matter of minutes and thousands of families had to evacuate immediately, leaving behind the life they created (Bhutto, 2022). These survivors, many of whom were poor, attempted to find safe ground, with many succumbing to hunger and disease. The cities to which many of the flood victims evacuated lacked the resources to help themselves, let alone the resources to support those that were internally displaced from other regions of the country. The cities struggled to provide food, tents, mosquito nets, water, and even medical supplies. Documented figures have stated that over 287,000 houses had been destroyed with an additional 662,000 damaged (Bhutto, 2022). This leaves nearly a million homes irreparable or too costly to fix resulting in all these families without their homes. Thousands of families and individuals lost their livelihoods as well as their sources of income. Close to one million livestock perished, and 2 million acres of crops were ruined (Bhutto, 2022). Up to one-third of Pakistan was underwater due to the several week-long monsoon, and one in seven residents has been affected with 33 million people being displaced. With this displacement and so little habitable space in Pakistan, residents have the choice to stay and attempt to rebuild their livelihoods or flee to other countries. Choosing to stay means that these individuals will have been internally displaced within their country and will have to rebuild their lives from the ground up. Should they choose to flee puts these individuals are at “climate refugee” status which creates a whole other complication. Due to the specific parameters of refugee status, those experiencing displacement due to the effects of their environment are not able to seek asylum out of their homelands and have been deemed “the world’s forgotten victims” by the United Nations (Zurich, n.d.). 

Pakistani Resident
Source: UNHCR

What Happens After the Flood?

With damages estimated to cost more than $10 billion to repair after this year’s flooding in Pakistan, the country is looking for support for the displaced residents. The Canadian government has agreed to match donations to the Humanitarian Coalition of up to $3 million and has allocated an additional $25 million to flood relief efforts in Pakistan (Babych, 2022). With climate change’s effects appearing to prevail, measures need to be put in place for the prevention of natural disasters like floods and funds need to be allocated for repairing inevitable damages. Moving forward, we need to take action to mitigate the effects of climate change as a collective while learning to adapt to this new world we have created. While doing so we need to support those currently being affected and may not have a place to seek safety.

Reference

Babych, S. (2022, September 21). Local physician asks people to help Pakistan in flood relief
efforts … The Calgary Herald. Retrieved from https://calgaryherald.com/news/local-news/the-need-is-so-huge-local-physician-encourages-people-to-help-pakistan-after-seeing-flood-devastation-first-hand

Bhutto, F. (2022, September 3). What is owed to Pakistan, now one-third underwater.
The New York Times. Retrieved September 21, 2022, from https://www.nytimes.com/2022/09/03/opinion/environment/floods-in-pakistan-climate-change.html

Hartmann, B. (2010). Rethinking climate refugees and climate conflict: Rhetoric, reality and
the politics of policy discourse. Journal of International Development, 22(2), 233–246. https://doi.org/10.1002/jid.1676

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. (n.d.). Pakistan’s disastrous floods uproot
refugees and citizens. UNHCR. Retrieved September 21, 2022, from https://www.unhcr.org/news/stories/2022/9/6311c7f54/pakistans-disastrous-floods-uproot-refugees-citizens.html

Zurich.com. (n.d.). Retrieved September 21, 2022, from
https://www.zurich.com/en/media/magazine/2022/there-could-be-1-2-billion-climate-refugees-by-2050-here-s-what-you-need-to-know

Sarah Lawless
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