Pakistan’s worst floods in a decade have killed more than 1,000 people and damaged nearly a million homes. As the latest in a string of climate change-induced catastrophes threatens economic recovery.
Heavy rains and floods have hit across Pakistan in recent weeks, hitting three of the country’s four provinces: Sindh, Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. According to government data, in Sindh he had almost eight times the average rainfall in August, wiping out crops such as rice and cotton.
Officials estimate that more than 30 million people, or about 15% of the population, have been affected, and thousands have been forced to abandon their homes.
“This is the biggest climate disaster of the decade,” Climate Change and Environment Minister Sherry Lehman said in an interview with the Financial Times. “Never in my living memory have I seen such a biblical flood come to Pakistan.”
South Asia has been hit by extreme weather events in recent months, with torrential rains killing thousands in India, Bangladesh and Afghanistan following a heat wave.
The floods have exacerbated Pakistan’s financial difficulties. The IMF board on Monday said he plans to approve spending of $1.2 billion to bolster the country’s dwindling foreign exchange reserves. Inflation is also soaring, with a measure of ‘sensitive’ items such as food and other essentials rising 45% year-on-year last week.
Lehmann predicts that authorities may be forced to divert development grants and potential budgets to manage fallout.
“We will have problems with the import bill and our foreign exchange reserves will be affected. [way],” she said. “If the trade balance is affected, the rupee will fall further. We are facing very tough times.”
The government is preparing a UN appeal for humanitarian aid to help the affected areas, and Prime Minister Shebaz Sharif met with foreign diplomats on Friday to ask for more international assistance. “Ongoing rain spells have caused devastation across the country,” he said.
Investors had feared that Pakistan would follow Sri Lanka in default, but the prospect of assistance from the IMF, part of a $7 billion package launched in 2019, has eased those concerns. has been greatly relaxed. China recently lent Islamabad more than $2 billion of her, and Saudi Arabia agreed to renew her $3 billion deposit with the Central Bank of Pakistan. Pakistani officials expect more help from countries including Qatar.
The floods are putting further pressure on the Sharif government as it faces sustained political challenges from former Prime Minister Imran Khan, who was ousted in a no-confidence vote this year. But he has been released on bail after being indicted last week for terrorist acts over a controversial speech.
Some policy experts argue that chronic negligence and poor management are exacerbating the effects of climate change-induced catastrophes.
Abid Suleli, head of the think-tank at the Institute for Sustainable Development Policy, said “man-made disasters” such as poorly constructed and unsafely located buildings are causing more damage. “Natural disasters are inevitable [by any one country] But the human catastrophe that flows from them can be avoided,” he said.
But Rehman argued that no country could handle such extreme flooding. “If Islamabad had 700% extra rain, Islamabad would be congested, just like New York,” she said. I was. “It’s sexy to say it’s a development failure…but I’m not sure that’s what the story is all about. It’s just too much water.”
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