Two camels walk down a street in Gilgit, a town near the Karakoram Mountains in northern Pakistan. “They came from the Balochistan desert,” said one resident. “It was too hot for them this year.”
After battling temperatures that repeatedly approached 50 degrees earlier this year, the southwestern province of Balochistan is now grappling with flooding that has claimed 63 lives in less than a month. Across Pakistan, nearly 150 people have died in monsoon rains that are 87% heavier than the country usually experiences, according to its climate change ministry.
The South Asian state is one of the most vulnerable to climate change and a May study by international scientists found that the extreme heat that swept across Pakistan in March this year was 30 times more likely in due to human-induced climate change.
Rising temperatures have disrupted monsoon cycles and accelerated the rate of melting of some 7,000 glaciers in Pakistan. These developments have contributed to this year’s intense rains and floods that have wiped out lives and infrastructure across the country.
“If you are poor, your adaptive capacity is low,” says Dr Fahad Saeed, an Islamabad-based climate analyst who covers South Asia and the Middle East. “You are more exposed to the impact of any extreme weather and the impact is felt for years afterwards.”
With floods and extreme heat now regularly destroying their livelihoods, many rural dwellers in Pakistan have had no choice but to migrate to cities ill-equipped to cope with their rapidly expanding urban population. . But despite these now frequent bouts of destruction, little attention is paid to climate change and its causes among Pakistani political parties and the Urdu-language media.
“People don’t realize they are victims of something they didn’t contribute to,” Saeed said. “Many farmers will blame the government for not releasing the water or will view the floods as an act of God.”
Although the government is not responsible for Pakistan’s vulnerability to climate change, Ali Tauqeer Sheikh argued in a recent opinion piece for local newspaper Dawn that the authorities are nonetheless responsible for making Pakistan “one of the least prepared”.
“Accepting that we are ill-prepared increases the accountability and direct responsibility of the relevant federal and provincial ministries,” wrote Sheikh, who is a development and climate change consultant. “To a very large extent, vulnerability and resilience are a function of good or bad governance.”
Former Prime Minister Imran Kahn, who was ousted in April after a vote of no confidence in his leadership, was one of the few Pakistani leaders to respond to climate change during his tenure. Its flagship green initiative was a large-scale reforestation project called the Ten Billion Tree Tsunami program.
“It created a softer image of Pakistan, as a responsible country undertaking mitigation measures,” Saeed says. “It was a very good diplomatic initiative.” The warm international welcome included a Chinese donation of 7,000 saplings for the project and an agreement with Saudi Arabia in January to help the oil-rich kingdom as it embarked on its own tree-planting initiative. trees.
After expressing support for Khan’s reforestation project, new climate change minister Sherry Rehman criticized the previous government for its lack of work on water scarcity, which Pakistan is expected to experience within three years: “It seems that climate solutions have been reduced to planting trees only.
“Khan has introduced some good policies but we haven’t seen a comprehensive action plan on climate change yet,” says Junaid Ahmed Dahar, a youth activist based in Larkana. “The climate change ministry’s budget is tiny when compared to other ministries.”
A lack of leadership from the federal government in Islamabad has been compounded by a lack of cooperation on climate change at the provincial level. Each of Pakistan’s four provinces has its own environment ministry and their representatives are expected to cooperate through the National Climate Change Council, which has not held a meeting for the past four years.
The lack of coordination has resulted in an ad hoc approach to the series of floods, heat waves, droughts and earthquakes that have rocked the country in recent years.
The lack of a strategy has also created a bottleneck for green finance, as universities and government agencies have not been properly commissioned to study the impact of climate change in Pakistan. Peer-reviewed research that links what is happening in their country to climate change is a requirement for developing countries to access funding for mitigation and adaptation under the Convention- United Nations framework on climate change.
Lack of scientific evidence on the impact of climate change on the South Asian country weakens the state’s negotiating position in UN climate forums, says Saeed, and means Pakistan will continue to lack green funding, despite record rainfall and an increase in casualties this year. monsoon season.