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Floods and heatwave

The devastating effects of climate change can already be felt across Pakistan. The country is set to face an extreme heatwave this week while glacial flooding caused by rising temperatures has affected the northern areas.

Authorities have already issued a heat alert for parts of Sindh and Punjab this week. The Met Office has forecast that temperatures will remain 7-9 degrees above average in upper Punjab, Islamabad, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Kashmir, while in Sindh and parts of Balochistan temperatures are likely to remain 6-8 degrees above normal.

The extremely hot and dry weather will affect water reservoirs, crops, vegetables and orchards and high temperatures will increase energy demand. Many parts of the country are facing acute water and power shortage and the crisis could exacerbate in the coming days.

The Sindh government has complained that it is not receiving its water share. Balochistan is running out of water and the underground water level is going down with each passing day. During the last two decades, most of the green pastures have turned into deserts due to lack of water. The scarcity of water can force people to migrate as they are highly dependent on underground water for drinking and agriculture.

A report by Berkeley Earth, a climate science research non-profit, states that India and Pakistan are in the grip of an unprecedented heatwave for the past two months but the worst is yet to come. More than a billion people are at risk of being exposed to scorching temperatures exceeding well above 40 Celsius which can kill thousands.

In Pakistan, March remained the hottest recorded month since 1961. The city of Jacobabad in Sindh which has been categorized as “unlivable for humans”, reached 49 degrees last week, a record high for the entire northern hemisphere this year. In fact, Pakistan skipped spring this year and directly went to summer.

In 2015, an extended heatwave killed more than 1,200 deaths in Pakistan. This year, the situation could be worst if precautionary measures are not taken to lessen the impact. The urban heat island effect due to the lack of green cover worsens the situation.

The government may be unable to control the effects of global warming but it should make efforts such as creating warning systems, developing heat adaptation plans, and providing access to cooling resources for low-income communities in the region. The region is vulnerable to extreme climate events and we need to mitigate the devastating effects of climate change.

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