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Recent Flood Devastation In Pakistan: Duties Of Our Leadership, International Response And Future Approach – OpEd

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Climate change is one of the most important global environmental challenges facing humanity, particularly the less developed nations like Pakistan.

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Robert D Kaplan, an American author of over a dozen books, writes in his famous article, “The Coming Anarchy”, that whenever he asked the Pentagon officials about the nature of the war in the 21st century, the answer he frequently got: “‘Read Van Creveld”.

Van Creveld writes that the period of nation-states and therefore of state conflict is now ending. He explains that the ‘national defense’ in the future will become a local concept. As local calamities, according to Creveld, will develop into a low-intensity conflict along with racial, religious, social and political lines.

Creveld further warns that The future will be of communal survival caused by environmental scarcity. There will be environmental-driven wars, fought by the environmental-driven regimes described as ‘hard regimes’. Future wars will be of communal survival caused by environmental scarcityIn Pakistan, climate change raises concerns.

Pakistan is frequently exposed to natural hazards like floods, droughts and cyclones. These hazards when combined with the vulnerabilities in the shape of poverty, exclusion and inappropriate distribution of national resources.

Among the damages already evident in the country is the growing frequency of droughts and flooding, increasingly, erratic weather behavior, changes in agricultural patterns, reduction in freshwater supply and the loss of biodiversity.

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Moreover, the earthquake and flooding calamities suffered by Pakistan in the recent past have further eroded the coping capacity, of people and institutions, making them more vulnerable to future negative impacts of climate change.The most vulnerable groups, including children, the elderly, people with preexisting health conditions, outdoor workers and people with low income, are at an even higher risk because of the compounding factors from climate change.

The damaged Physical infrastructure by the recent floods in Pakistan, includes bridges, roads, ports, electrical grids, broadband internet, and other parts of our transportation and communication systems but all are designed without future climate in mind. Extreme weather events that bring heavy rains, floods, wind, snow, or temperature changes can stress existing structures and facilities.

We as a nation, have taken for granted, the writings of Martin Van Creveld and early warnings of great environmentalists and their scholastic works with regard to, environmental degradation, climate change, extreme weather phenomena etc and its devastating effects on vulnerable nations like Pakistan.

Though Pakistan is only 1% contributor to carbon emission but it stands at top ten countries amongst the most vulnerable and effected list of the natural disasters. Natural calamities hits the country since long particularly the earthquake in 2005 and flood in the year 2010 but our development planners and politicians have tuned back to those early warnings of the climate change and resultant natural disasters.

No doubt the scale of disaster in the country is beyond its capacity to deal with out foreign assistance and international community is responding but for less to correspond with needs of effected people, therefore, the donors must help out the country in a bigger way particularly in technical terms.

Despite early warnings, the recent flood has ruined every thing in the country, its infrastructure, the people have lost their children, their live stock and their entire lives are being washed away by the flood waters but unfortunately the focus of our politicians are still on how to retain or grab power.

Here I must recall the saying of Noam Chomsky about elite club in US, he asserts that, “there is only one political party in the US – the corporate business lobby”, which has two branches, Democrats and Republicans. And when it comes to policies, the two branches come up with the same agenda.Our politicians behave in like manner. They have shown little political maturity during the recent national disaster. Their agenda is the same as pointed out by Noam Chomsky, to fight for power politics and accumulation of wealth by looting the national resources rather than showing unity and making joint efforts to give relief to the public.

Pakistan nowadays is in a dire strait, both nature, politics and economics. The combination of these three devastating elements have made the general public most sufferers because they are already facing bed governance, insecurity, unemployment, skyrocketed prices of daily commodities. They are exposed and helpless to meet the challenges of such disasters.

The way forward, to my mind is, first our leadership to get immediately the treatment of two serious diseases and change their behaviour with public by treating them as citizens rather than as their subjects.

1) schizophrenia —a long-term mental disorder of a type involving a breakdown in the relation between thought, emotion and behaviour, leading to faulty perception.

2) dementia—It is the loss of cognitive functioning — thinking, remembering and reasoning — which has now become so severe that it interferes with daily life and activities. One cannot make sense of history — his previous experiencesWe as nation can meet the challenges of natural disasters in future, once our leadership get rid of the above mentioned diseases with out further loss of time and initiate proper planning with comprehensive strategies coupled with allocation of sufficient resources in the federal and provincial PSDPs, for designing all futuristic development infrastructure in the light of lessons learned from the recent devastating floods and other natural disasters like earthquakes in the past particularly in the year 2005.

Second, as Pakistan is facing a flood of “Biblical proportions”, here I recall In the words of Maya Angelou: “It’s good to remember that in crises, natural crises, human beings forget for awhile their ignorances, their biases, their prejudices. For a little while, neighbours help neighbours and strangers help strangers, therefore, the international community should come forth and must not leave the country to fend for itself in dealing with this “unprecedented man made natural disaster”. They should continue to stand by Pakistan during this tragic time”. The extreme weather events due to human-caused global warming” could follow as “Pakistan is facing a tip of the ice berg of climate change.

The United Nat­ions Secretary-General Ant­onio Guterres has rightly showed unprecedented concern, visited flood-hit areas in Sindh and Balochistan and called the devastation he witnessed “climate carnage” as he appealed for a “massive and global response” to deal with climate change and urged global financial institutions to create a new mechanism for countries like Pakistan to enable investment in climate resilience and sustainable infrastructure, instead of getting mired these countries in debt repayment.

Sher Khan Bazai, Former Secretary Education, Balochistan Pakistan. The writer can be reached at skbazai @hotmail.com 

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