Climate Change and Extreme Weather Events: Flood History of Pakistan

Since 1947, Pakistan has witnessed 29 floods. Still, the state has not developed a robust system to protect lives and properties from destruction and devastation 

Climate Change and Extreme Weather Events: Flood History of Pakistan

Pakistan, like many other regions around the world, is experiencing the impacts of climate change. Pakistan is one of the top 10 nations most at risk from climate change. It is vulnerable to natural catastrophes, including floods, droughts, and heatwaves, which cause a wide range of problems, including causalities, injuries, damage to property and infrastructure, displacement and population migration, crop and livestock losses, the spread of waterborne diseases, last but not the least recovery and rebuilding.

Flooding has caused hindrance not only to social growth but also to economic progress in the past few years. The impact of this worldwide phenomenon has affected the lives of people in numerous countries. 
Pakistan has witnessed 29 floods since its independence. The first ever flood struck in 1950, followed by 1955, 1956, 1957, 1959, 1973, 1975, 1976, 1977, 1978, 1981, 1983, 1984, 1988, 1992, 1994, 1995 – and from 2010 onward, we have experienced it every year.

In 1995, the flood claimed 2,190 lives, affected 10,000 villages and flooded 17,920 square kilometres of land across the country. Earlier in 1992, it killed 1,008 people, wrecked 13,208 villages and proliferated 38,758 square kilometres of land, according to the Annual Report of FFC, 2020. 

In 2010, an unprecedented monsoon caused one of the worst floods in the country's history. According to the Federal Flood Commission (FFC), it affected 160,000 square kilometres of land, 1,985 lives and 17,553 villages were flooded. 

Collectively, between 1951 and 2020, Pakistan lost 13,262 precious lives and damaged 197,273 villages over 616,558 square kilometres causing losses worth almost Rs39 billion to the economy. 

In 2022, a third of the nation was submerged by massive and deadly floods across the country. About 33 million people were impacted, especially in the provinces of Sindh and Balochistan, and numerous died as a result. It killed 1,739 lives causing $14.9 billion of damage and $15.2 billion of economic loss, per the government's damage assessment report. 

The country was in recovery mode when heavy rains started to batter parts of the country in June. In May, provinces were cautioned by the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) to prepare for extreme weather occurrences, including intense heat waves, unusual snow melting, landslides, flash floods, forest fires, and cyclones. 

According to the NDMA's recent report, there have been 150 causalities, 233 people have been injured, with 468 properties damaged across Pakistan. 

History has repeated itself, year after year, but we have not learnt from our past mistakes. Had the state learned lessons from the 2010 floods, the country could have avoided the destruction of lives and properties in the following years. They should provide technical assistance to local disaster management institutions, educate climate researchers who can use weather and climate data to create policies and conduct a study on past flood experiences to learn from them.

Due to high levels of glacial melting and deicing of mountain caps, as well as an increase in monsoon rainfall, Pakistan is expected to experience more frequent and severe floods in the future as a result of climate change. However, there is a need for the government to develop better responses to early warnings about potential hazards.

The situation has been exacerbated due to some common concerns and areas where the government was perceived to have fallen short, such as corruption, poor management of the nation's water resources, a lack of essential infrastructure, inadequate disaster preparedness, political prioritization, deforestation and land degradation, inadequate adaptation measures and lack of climate policy implementation. 

Pakistan must recover from the aftereffects of past disastrous weather events. The environment, economy, and people of Pakistan must be protected against climate change by taking immediate proactive actions.