Monsoons devastate Pakistan

By Patrick Gainor, Guest Writer

More than 1,200 people have died and 33 million have been displaced as catastrophic floods tear their way through Pakistan. 

The floods, caused by a “monster monsoon,” have laid waste to more than 1.1 million homes and more than 3,100 miles of road across the country. More than 800,000 livestock have been killed.

The flooding began in mid-June, after a historic heatwave where temperatures reached 122 degrees accompanied by minimal precipitation. According to the Pakistan Meteorological Report, the country’s total rainfall was 190% above normal, with the wettest monsoon season on record since 1961. 

 Areas closest to the Indus River were quickly overwhelmed. Areas in the Balochistan province have received a 410% increase in rainfall, while areas in the Sindh district have received a staggering 466% increase. Cities across the Charsadda and Khairpur districts have been overwhelmed with extensive flood damage, with neck-highwater in some places.

The cause of this “monster monsoon” has been linked to the effects of global warming, by some researchers. Fahad Saeed, an Islamabad-based analyst for Climate Analytics, said that heat waves preceding the season were “30 times more likely due to climate change.” 

Other weather experts say that higher temperatures lead to heavier rainfall, as warmer air has a greater capacity to hold water. That, paired with the melting of glaciers, has caused the worst flooding Pakistan has seen since 2010 and the most rainfall since 1961. 

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has spent the last weeks pleading for aid from other countries, calling this flood “the worst in the history of Pakistan,” with estimated recovery costs nearing $10 billion. The United Nations submitted an appeal on Tuesday for $160 million in emergency efforts, with China independently submitting an additional $57 million on Saturday. Other countries including France, Turkey, Qatar, Uzbekistan, Jordan and Turkmenistan have also sent in several plane loads of relief goods, including medicine to combat the outbreak of waterborne disease, large dewatering pumps to reduce water levels and teams of doctors and experts to actively assist in relief efforts. 

According to the Global Climate Risk Index, Pakistan is the eighth-most vulnerable country to damages caused by climate change, though they are responsible for less than 1% of the world’s planet-warming gases. 

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is among several officials and experts who have made a call to increase climate change awareness amidst this humanitarian disaster, saying that the world needs to stop “sleepwalking” through this deadly crisis. He is scheduled to visit Pakistan on Friday to meet with officials. 

In addition to the damage to infrastructure and potential loss of life, the impacts on agriculture and Pakistan’s food supply will be felt in markets as well.

“Pakistan’s rice output has been really good over recent seasons,” Peter Clubb, a market analyst at the International Grains Council said. “While any large production loss is obviously bad, that improvement in production over recent seasons gives a bit of leeway.”