Commentary: Pakistan floods a warning sign of more climate disasters to come

In Pakistan, nearby farms have long been supplied with water from the Indus River in order to expand irrigation systems and support agricultural growth. Over the years, embankments along the rivers have been built with government assistance to shield the farming land from sporadic floods.

Settlements constructed along the riverbanks and in flood-prone areas contributed by choking the natural drainage through which the excess waters move towards the sea.

The majority of farms receiving irrigation water from the Indus are owned by wealthier farmers. Wealthy farmers have prospered from these irrigation infrastructures, leaving the poor to bear the burden of flooding and devastation. That has raised questions about equity and justice in Pakistan.


The floods have also drawn attention to global climate inequality. Though Pakistan contributes to less than 1 per cent of global greenhouse and carbon emissions, it was ranked among the top 10 most vulnerable nations to the effects of climate change by the Global Climate Risk Index.

To address these multifaceted challenges and combat the climate crisis, Pakistan will need to implement a diverse set of short- and long-term strategies that are carefully designed, discussed and inclusively implemented. Science and policy must connect climate change risks and mitigation measures in an actionable way.

Better climate preparation is required for South Asia as a whole, not only in Pakistan. The entire region has experienced extreme weather events, such as flooding, droughts and heatwaves.

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The tragedy in Pakistan is a wake-up call to the world’s most densely populated region. If immediate measures are not taken to improve climate crisis preparedness, mitigation and adaptation, disasters will worsen.

As UN Secretary-General António Guterres urges: “Today, it’s Pakistan. Tomorrow, it could be your country.”

Manita Raut is PhD student and John Allwright fellow at the Crawford School of Public Policy, ANU. Kuntala Lahiri-Dutt is Professor at the Resource, Environment and Development Program at the Crawford School of Public Policy, ANU. This commentary first appeared on East Asia Forum.

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