The summer of 2022 brought unprecedented damage to Pakistan in the form of excessive rains and resultant floods. Many debates have been carried out on the root cause behind these floods, with several experts linking it to climate change while others blaming the poor construction of infrastructure. Others have also concluded it to be a ‘test’ or ‘punishment’ from God. Regardless of the cause, there is a general consensus on the damage caused by this flooding. Many comparisons have been drawn between the floods of 2022 and that of 2010, with the latter being much less destructive in terms of financial and infrastructural damage.
The abnormal rains began in mid-June and continued well into September, flooding over one- third of Pakistan and sending millions of people into despair. About 15% of Pakistan’s population, almost 33 million people, were affected by the floods, which killed around 1300 people at the very least. Over 12,850 people suffered injuries, more than 4,000 of which were children. 7.9 million were displaced, out of which 598,000 are still struggling to find a place to go, finding homes in temporary accommodations and makeshift houses. Infrastructural damage included the destruction of more than 1.1 million homes, millions of acres of crops, 3200 miles of roads, and dozens of bridges. Twenty-eight districts in Sindh and Balochistan are still considered to be in crisis and an emergency of food shortage. In addition to the human death count, around 800,000 livestock was also destroyed, affecting the livelihood of many people and creating a widespread fear of food shortages. Houses weren’t the only buildings affected by this climate catastrophe; structures such as water systems and farms were also demolished. Facilities such as schools, hospitals, and other public buildings have also been damaged, disrupting the entire lives of the people in the affected vicinities. Whole villages were washed away during the floods, with entire buildings collapsing in urban areas. One of the biggest points of concern is that some of the areas which have been hit the hardest were the ones that were already significantly underdeveloped. It was more difficult for them to sustain the damage and hold up against the incoming disaster, making them more vulnerable than other areas. Our climate change minister, Sherry Rehman, has referred to the climate disaster as the ‘monsoon monster of the decade.’ According to the government, the floods have caused financial damage amounting to $30 billion, with an agricultural land destruction of almost 9.8 million acres. Devastation of this magnitude will be extremely strenuous and burdensome for Pakistan to recover from, a process that may take months or even years to complete.
In addition to agriculture and farming, the tourism industry has also been brutally disturbed by the recent floods. Many tourist locations, such as Kumrat, were significantly flooded, while the roads leading to others were severely blocked off, even if the area itself was relatively okay. Tourists were stranded in many locations, with rescue operations being carried out to bring them back safely. This alarming situation has caused a lot of problems for the tourist industry. For a while at least, there’s going to be a lot of fear attached to visiting any of these locations, with people worrying about getting stuck. Furthermore, the damage these areas have sustained will require serious help from the government for it to be fixed. For a while at least, the tourism industry of Pakistan, which was on its way to a boom, will not be the same.
The deeper impact of these floods also needs to be discussed. On top of the devastating loss of
life, other issues have also surfaced. According to UNICEF, the flooding has left 3.4 million
children in need of assistance. Pakistan’s National Disaster Management Authority has
elaborated that rescue missions have been very slow, with more than half a million people still
living in makeshift shelters and camps. Many of these makeshift camps are near open, stagnant
water which is leading to an increased risk of waterborne diseases, malnutrition, and drowning.
Outbreaks of watery diarrhea, typhoid, and malaria have also been recorded recently. Many
displaced people have been exposed to devastating water-related hazards and are living
without access to clean water.
Another huge problem is how these floods have impacted the educational ecosystem in Pakistan. According to some initial assessments, more than 24,000 schools across the country have been damaged, disrupting the schooling of around 3.5 million children. Many of these children had already suffered a massive bump in their education when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, causing them to be far behind in terms of learning compared to other children who had the luxury of online education.
Now is when we need to take a step back and look at the emotional impact of the recent flooding. Millions of people have lost their homes, livelihoods, property, assets, and family members. Their trauma has been unparalleled, something that will haunt them for years to come. This situation has also added to the distrust and bitterness people already helo against the governing bodies, deepening seeds of protest. Someone who hasn’t personally been through the floods could never imagine the emotional turmoil such destruction can cause to a person’s mental state. In addition to other rehabilitation efforts, this is also a front that people need professional help on.
The one slightly good thing that has come out of this devastating disaster has been the way it brought the whole country together and bonded them in the face of calamity. Millions of rupees have been collected in donations, along with other items as well. NGOs and other organizations have been working day and night to provide a chance of survival to the flood affectees. International bodies such as UNICEF have also come forward to deliver supplies to flood- affected areas, with international figures such as Mufti Menk and Angelina Jolie visiting Pakistan to help out in affected areas in person.
Even though the entire population of Pakistan, along with international actors, has come through with its generous donations, this is not all that’s required to save Pakistan from the damage that has been caused. Specific policies need to be made by the governmental authorities on the reconstruction of sectors such as infrastructure, tourism, healthcare, and education. Without proper action plans, one cannot expect the deeper ramifications of the floods to be corrected as they should be. Climate activists must be at the forefront of calling for better decision-making before disaster strikes again. If we wish to prevent such destruction from happening again, everyone needs to work together.