Living with floods

   We have to face floods every year. Sometimes these are hill torrents while sometimes these are river floods, these flood and sufferings caused have become part and parcel...


 We have to face floods every year. Sometimes these are hill torrents while sometimes these are river floods, these flood and sufferings caused have become part and parcel of our lives.

Razia Bibi, flood victim from Jaimpur, Rajanpur

There are two main causes of floods in the Rajanpur district, Pakistan. First, during monsoon, heavy rains fall in the catchment area resulting in excessive water in the river Indus, which flows out of its banks causing a flood. Secondly, hill torrents emerging from Koh-e-Suleman, in the west, brings in excessive water that enters the plain areas of Jampur and Rojhan Tehsils, causing heavy deluge. Due to heavy rainfall in the catchments areas, the intensity of flood in the river Indus causes an alarming situation warranting adequate flood control arrangements. Torrents also cause havoc when there are heavy rains on the hills in the adjacent tribal areas.

Rajanpur has a long history of floods and almost every year, these reek havoc in this district. Monsoon floods in 2006 and hill torrents during 2005, 2007, 2008, 2010 and 2011 affected a vast majority of the population.  Furthermore, the floods severity and frequency has become unpredictable in the face of changing climate; the efforts need a re-focus addressing all the phases of disasters keeping in mind the impacts of climate change.

According to locals, the floods of 2006 and 2010 were the worst. Emergency and red alert was issued by the government as 70% of the area was inundated and crops were completely destroyed. The mud houses were wiped out while the cemented houses were also badly damaged, many animals lost in the flood while those that managed to survive also died later due to various diseases. The aftermath included huge losses of property and other assets. As the flood water passed, the soils remained under water for months. This lead to outbreak of diseases and the situation became worse for flood affected people, even communication to the outer world was put to a halt as the communication systems were severely damaged.

Razia’s story continues, “I was totally shocked, confused and lost. I did not know how to deal with all of the losses at a time. I did not have much left. The survival became difficult as everything seemed to be at risk. My farm, my health, my security, and my livelihood, everything seemed so precarious. Now I am living with floods as it’s a common occurrence every year. I shift to a relative’s place during the flood warning and come back to pick up the pieces. Now I have learnt lessons from previous calamities to save some money to face the next disaster. I don’t want to rely on loans. I know the floods during the next years might put me in debt”. Unfortunately, this is not just story of Razia alone but of thousands of people living in the flood plains of Rajanpur district, Pakistan.

Are they going to put money where their mouth is?

This year might prove to be an important one for climate change. Last year in September 2014,  the presidents of the US and China, the two global economic powerhouses, agreed to build bridges with each other, to adopt a legal protocol under the UNFCCC during the events leading up to COP 21 in Paris this year. Currently the new treaty for climate change has become a hot potato as developing and developed countries are going through different rounds of negotiations so that they can reach a clear commitment before December 2015. The participation of US has made it an interesting motivational factor as previously Canada and Russia backed out due its absence.  It is the right time to ponder about the challenging situation the developed countries might find themselves. If the world reaches a new treaty these countries may find themselves on the path of slow economic growth in future in addition to paying the debts of the past. The developing countries are of the view that the planet was put on the pathway of global warming due to excessive economic growth by developed countries. It is due to past activities of these countries the least responsible ones are facing the worse consequences in the form of climate change.

As the world leaders are back to the drawing room now, it’s probably even more important to ask; in the event of an extremely unlikely incident where a legally-binding agreement is indeed produced in Paris, and the Annex 1 countries actually agree to pour in the $100 billion a year in the climate fund (starting in 2020), the question is when, and in what form, that money will see the light of day in Pakistan, if at all?

Pakistan is one of the most vulnerable countries when it comes to climate change consequences, along with other developing countries. These were given the hopes to receive a combined total of $30 billion dollars a year, leading up to 2020. The hopes from leadership of the Pakistani negotiators to raise important adaptation issues such as loss and damage might signal a favorable stance by the country in achieving a principal share of support at the negotiation tables.

Mechanisms to use the Climate funding

There seem to be some double standards if we look at budget allocation towards the issues of climate change and disaster management. We can only hope that, in new upcoming budget these important issues find their fair share. It’s not just about demanding funds from developed counties but also about on-ground mechanisms to utilize that money; governments need to minimize the institutional constraints to streamline adaptation. In this way receiving countries like Pakistan can use climate finance effectively and protect the vulnerable populations from the negative impacts of climate change.

 If the Pakistani government manages to keep the pivot balancing on both ends at the monumentally significant upcoming Paris deal, objectives towards climate change adaptation and sustainable development can become a reality for us. A deal that can save people like Razia Bibi and her family, and give them at least sufficient social security to earn their livelihoods and live a respectable and decent life.

Harmain Rukh

From Pakistan, Harmain did her MS in environmental science and was awarded gold medal for scoring highest CGPA among four batches. She has been working in various organizations as an environment analyst in the past four years. Currently she is working in LEAD Pakistan as a young professional officer climate change in the climate change department. She wants to write about the latest developments in climate change science and its implications on third world countries like Pakistan.
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