The flood caused unimaginable damage to Pakistan

The initial estimates show, that the damage from the floods in Pakistan will be “far greater” than $10 billion, according to the planning minister, after millions lost their homes and livelihoods while key roads and bridges have been washed away.

As officials are still tallying the cost of heavy flooding that has claimed more than 1,300 lives, the latest assessment shows the damage will be worse than the initial forecast. The final value will take six to eight weeks to determine, said Ahsan Iqbal, the minister of planning and development, adding that the climate disaster is due to the actions of the developed world.

“All those countries that contributed to global warming have a responsibility to help us now and be partners in rehabilitation and rebuilding,” Iqbal, who’s leading the country’s flood relief efforts, said by phone. “This tragedy is not of our own making. It’s due to global warming.”

All the efforts are in rescuing humankind and providing food to needy people in flood-hit areas. This relief and rescue operation is will continue till all human beings are shifted to safe places. But, the rehabilitation operation will start once the water is flown away or dried off. Repair of infrastructure, roads, and railway network, restoration of electricity, rebuilding of houses for the affected, etc., may take years to complete. Psychological trauma may also take a longer time to recover completely.

United Nations Secretary-General (UNSG) Antonio Guterres visited Pakistan on 9-10 September 2022 to show solidarity with the people of Pakistan, braving a colossal climate-induced natural disaster caused by unprecedented rains and floods across the country. The two-day visit comprised high-level meetings, briefings, interactions with displaced people, first responders, UN country representatives, civil society, and media.

The UNSG called on Prime Minister Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif. Several members of the Federal Cabinet joined the meeting. The PM expressed his gratitude for the Secretary-General’s personal attention to the situation arising from the floods and greatly appreciated his visit and concern for the affected people. The PM informed the UNSG about the efforts of the Government of Pakistan in addressing the daunting challenges posed by the flash floods, including the provision of Rs.35 billion in cash relief through the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP), rescue and relief operations, and delivery of humanitarian assistance in coordination will all national stakeholders and with support of international partners. While appreciating the UNSG’s video message for the UN Flash Appeal, the PM highlighted that with less than 1% of global carbon emission Pakistan is facing the brunt of natural calamities in the form of heat waves, glacial outbursts, droughts, torrential rains, and unprecedented monsoons. The PM called for urgent mitigation and adaptation efforts in addition to mobilizing support for recovering and rebuilding from such extreme climate events.

The UNSG said that countries like Pakistan, which have done almost nothing to contribute to global warming, do not deserve this. He added, “I know how volunteers, civil servants, army, NGOs have been working together in a remarkable way to mitigate the suffering of Pakistani people”. The UNSG stated, “My voice is at the service of the Government and people of Pakistan. I have seen the enormous generosity of Pakistanis in protecting and assisting more than 6 million Afghan refugees and helping each other in previous calamities such as during the earthquake and floods. My admiration for this country is limitless”. He assured us that the UN would do everything in its capacity to help the people of Pakistan. The UNSG appealed to the international community to provide massive support to Pakistan for not only relief assistance but also for rehabilitation and climate resilient reconstruction. He emphasized that it was not just a matter of solidarity but a matter of justice, as countries like Pakistan that have not contributed to climate change are amongst the frontline countries impacted by climate change.

The UNSG was briefed on the overall ground situation, humanitarian activities, and coordination amongst national and international stakeholders at the National Flood Response and Coordination Centre (NFRCC). The PM and the UNSG also had a joint presser.

The UNSG held delegation-level talks with Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, followed by a joint press stakeout. A broad range of issues related to the recent floods and climate change came under discussion. The FM noted that one-third of the country was inundated, around 33 million people were affected across the country, over 1300 lives were lost including more than 400 children, nearly 800,000 livestock perished, more than 1.7 million houses and 6000 km of roads have been destroyed or damaged. The Foreign Minister said that though the people impacted by the floods have made no contribution to climate change, they were suffering the most due to it, and therefore, it was the shared responsibility of the international community to do its utmost to assist the millions of affected to return to normal lives and livelihoods in a sustainable manner. The FM emphasized that it was critical that the momentum on the Flash Appeal, which was jointly launched by the Government of Pakistan and the UN, was sustained and looked forward to the UNSG’s support in further mobilizing the international community for the subsequent phase of sustainable rehabilitation and reconstruction.

The UNSG stressed that an important reason for his visit was to draw the attention of the international community to this climate catastrophe and to appeal for massive support for Pakistan. UNSG told the reporters, “I’m here to express my deep solidarity with the Pakistani people over the devastating loss of life and human suffering caused by this year’s floods”. The Secretary-General said that it was not only a matter of solidarity but a matter of justice. The UNSG reiterated that “today it is Pakistan, tomorrow it can be anywhere else”. The UNSG commended the Government of Pakistan’s strong leadership in the flood response efforts and reiterated the United Nations’ engagement to continue supporting the government’s relief efforts. He reaffirmed his commitment to galvanizing international support for the people of Pakistan through the recently launched Flash Appeal and Floods Response Plan and shared that funds have been released from the UN’s Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF). The UN Secretary-General thanked the Government and the Foreign Minister for the facilitation provided to support international partners to scale up their efforts in support of Pakistan.

The Secretary-General reaffirmed the full support and cooperation of the UN both for ongoing humanitarian relief work as well as for long-term recovery, rehabilitation, and reconstruction. The Secretary-General discussed various ideas for mobilizing finance and for enhancing fiscal space for Pakistan’s efforts to rehabilitate and reconstruct. Both sides exchanged views on how to reinforce climate action, with special emphasis on supporting the adaptation efforts of developing countries through debt swaps.

The UNSG, accompanied by the PM and the FM, visited flood-affected areas of Sindh and Baluchistan including Sukkur, Larkana, Mohenjo Daro, and Usta Muhammad, where he was given an overview of the rescue and relief efforts of the Government of Pakistan and national and international partners. The UNSG got a first-hand assessment of the on-ground situation by the displaced people, civil society, first responders, and others. The FM shared deep appreciation and acknowledgment of UNSG’s visit and efforts for international awareness raising, the show of solidarity with the Pakistani nation, and the mobilization of necessary support from the global community.

The Importance of the Secretary-General’s visit to Pakistan was that he visited the flood-hit areas and got first-hand information. He has witnessed the suffering of the people and the devastations of the flood himself.

Some areas of Pakistan usually have a rainfall of around 50 mm annually, but, this time there was rainfall of up to 1700 mm just in a couple of weeks, the amount of water, was unimaginable and beyond description in a simple world. The magnitude and intensity of the flood were unprecedented.

It is not only Pakistan, a few other nations also faced the impact of climate change. Facing natural disasters like these heavy floods is not possible for any single country to overcome. It is the collective responsibility of whole humankind to fight against natural disasters. Only collective efforts can defeat disasters. Especially, where, the cause of climate change belongs to G-20 nations, it is their moral obligation and legal compulsion to share their social responsibility generously.

G-20 is making rapid economic developments but at the heavy cost of climate change. Pakistan’s carbon emissions are much below permissible but became the worst victim of Climate change.

It is to be alarmed that usually heavy rains and floods may follow earthquakes, which can be more fatal.

It is urged that the Government of Pakistan compile a comprehensive report of flood-related damages, and estimate the cost of complete rehabilitations. Then approach the UN appropriate platform, and demand compensation legitimately. 

It is appealed to all nations and individuals to join hands in protecting humankind from natural disasters, not only in the case of Pakistan but also in any corner of the earth, where ever is required. The rich nations must proactively and generously extend a helping hand, especially the G-20 who are responsible for up to 80% of climate change.

Prof. Engr. Zamir Ahmed Awan
Prof. Engr. Zamir Ahmed Awan
Prof. Engr. Zamir Ahmed Awan, Sinologist (ex-Diplomat), Non-Resident Fellow of CCG (Center for China and Globalization), National University of Sciences and Technology (NUST), Islamabad, Pakistan.