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August 14, 2019

And the skies opened


August 14, 2019

Over two days since this past Saturday, the city of Karachi has received 200mm of rain. It fell almost ceaselessly, and in a metropolis which struggles to cope with even 20mm of rain it effectively created havoc. Roads were flooded, water swept into homes even in higher income areas and in katchi abadis of course the deluge left people struggling to survive in pools of water and mud. The situation once more draws attention to Karachi’s unforgivable lack of preparation for rain with its plight greatly aggravated by the chaos which prevails at K-Electric, the power supply company providing (barely) Karachi its electricity. In most parts of the city, it of course failed to provide any through the deluge. A short notification suggested this was deliberate. With its infrastructure in a shambles, K-Electric’s poles and exposed wires present a major threat; as per most reports, the 12 deaths caused by rain in Karachi resulting from electrocution as a result of contact with one of these installations. This then is our most modern city. Today, people struggle to recover from the flooding, to save what they can and to prepare for what the Meteorological Office forecasts could be more rain ahead. This essentially means doom for Karachi and its people. The mayor of Karachi has suggested that people file FIRs against K-Electric for any deaths caused. The lack of harmony between the provincial government, the KMC and the federal government did not help Karachi in its time of woe.

There was also a rain disaster in Punjab and all three of the other provinces, with flash floods and house collapses leading to at least nine deaths in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and misery for those who live in substandard housing as sudden waves of water swept down hillsides and destroyed parts of them. In Balochistan, an emergency has been declared in Lasbela and the army has been called in to help rescue people caught in floodwater. Parts of southern Punjab including Rajanpur have been badly hit too as have those in Azad Kashmir.

The rains upon which we look out on from the safer housing and workplaces some of us inhabit are essentially a result of climate change. Altering patterns of climate, glacial melt and rising water levels in oceans are factors in this and the concretisation of cities and other areas also means there is literally less soil for the water to seep into and begin the process which sustains life. Our inability to put in order key agencies required in situations such as this add to this the suffering of people. The federal government has called on all MNAs and MPAs in Karachi to act. But this is not enough. We need longer-term policies, thinking and a plan that can save people from the future disasters that will almost certainly befall them in the coming years.

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