Tuesday September 26, 2023

Weather alert

By Editorial Board
August 07, 2022

As another spell of heavy rains is around the corner, the Met Department has warned citizens to be prepared and vigilant. The federal cabinet has declared a ‘monsoon emergency’, as the country is likely to experience more rains in the coming week. The entire country needs to be on high alert, with nearly all parts of Pakistan – from Gilgit to Gwadar and from Kashmir to Karachi – set to be in the line of heavy rainfall. What is even more alarming are the impending strong winds and thundershowers which are likely to lash the country till August 15, especially in the northern parts of Pakistan. The situation calls for being prepared at all levels – from the federal and provincial governments to local administrations – across the land. All necessary precautions must be in place so that the relevant departments can mobilize the required machinery, resources and staff immediately. The role of district administration becomes significant in such cases of emergency and all commissioners and deputy commissioners must try their best to prevent any loss of life and property.

Perhaps the most pressing need will be to keep a constant eye on the rising water levels not only in rivers but in streams too. Of course, rivers such as Chenab, Jhelum, and Ravi see a heavy surge in water levels resulting in flooding in riparian areas; they also contribute to heavy inflows of water into the Indus system. The lower riparian areas of Balochistan and Sindh are at the receiving end of the gushing waters. While ravines and streams remain nearly dry throughout the year, in the monsoon season they have flash floods that destroy people’s assets and livelihoods which are already at a bare minimum. The recent rains devastated vast areas in Balochistan and southern Punjab where people suffered heavy losses of animal and human lives. There were harrowing pictures and videos whereby the affected were at the mercy of the elements. In the absence of an effective mechanism to provide immediate relief to the affected areas, most of the people are left to their own devices to save their lives. All local rivers and storm-water drains must remain clear of all encroachments and hurdles in the flow of water.

Tourists travelling to mountainous areas also need to be extra vigilant for their safety and must keep an eye on the weather forecast before embarking on a journey. The weather conditions are likely to change rapidly and an apparently dry weather can change within hours into a natural calamity. Rains trigger landslides that are not easy to tackle. Roadblocks are a common phenomenon in mountainous areas and it takes hours – sometimes even days – to reach areas where roads have been blocked. The effects of climate change are upon us and nobody should overlook or underestimate the devastating potential of erratic weather patterns. From forest fires and glacial lake outbursts to heatwaves and rain disasters, all are possible within a short span of time, leaving little room for relief and rescue if proper preparations are not in place. Just to cite one example, Balochistan has recorded over six times more rains than the normal rainfall since June this year whereas Sindh experienced five times more rains than usual. And last but not least, electric supply companies must improve their infrastructure from pylons to transmission through wires. In any emergency, prolonged electricity outages exacerbate the agonies people go through. With all the warnings already given, there really should be no excuse for any lack of preparation for all concerned departments.