Thursday June 13, 2024

Beat the heat?

By Editorial Board
May 29, 2023

Has Pakistan ever learnt from its past mistakes? The answer is an easy no – in almost all spheres of life, whether political or economic or even just governance related. Recent inaction by the government suggests that it does not have any interest in mending its ways when it comes to governance. A few days back, a Class XI student died in Khairpur – apparently as a result of exposure to extensive heat. He had appeared in his board exam, but the examination centre was out of power. The student could not survive the intense heat. Other students also lost consciousness due to high temperatures. Climate experts have been warning for months now that the summer of 2023 will be devastating for the South Asian region, and yet authorities have done little to deal with extreme climate conditions. Last year, after the super floods left one-third of the country under water, the relevant department made exceptional efforts to encourage the international community to help it deal with the climate challenge. But it seems that the government is still unsure about the severity of and the different forms climate change can take. Although temperatures have been rising constantly over the years and across the world, it was in 2015 when the nation saw the severity of heatwaves. More than 1,000 people died in Karachi alone, a majority of them homeless and the underprivileged who were buried in mass graves. That should have been a wakeup call for authorities, but unfortunately we saw nothing constructive happening.

In Pakistan, summer also brings with it excessive electricity loadshedding. As energy demand rises, the government turns to scheduled loadshedding to manage the electricity supply. And while this exercise only results in an additional expense of fuel for power generators for high-income families, the poor suffer silently. Each summer also sees the government approving an increase in per-unit electricity charges, making people a little hesitant over their use of air conditioning units and other cooling devices to beat the heat. In a country where green patches are being converted into concrete jungles to let the construction sector thrive, people are apparently on their own to tackle the growing climate crisis. First-aid camps set up in urban cities to provide cold water to passersby also remain ineffective with no one present there to provide assistance to people.

It is also quite apparent that different departments do not coordinate with each other. The fact that the education department is conducting examinations during such intense heat without proper arrangements shows how ill-informed authorities are about the dangers the country faces – or a simpler explanation: they just don’t care. In Punjab, the row between the public and private sectors over the closure of schools also shows lack of planning among governmental departments. We are stuck in a warped reality where even though we know that the future is going to bring intense temperatures, the state seems blissfully unaware about what is yet to come.