From June to September this year, unprecedented torrential rain in Pakistan caused flooding at an unimaginable scale, leaving a third of the country underwater, with United Nations (UN) secretary general, António Guterres, describing it as a “monsoon on steroids”.
Images and videos of entire multi-floor buildings collapsing, highways and bridges being washed away and people being drowned in what became urban waterfalls came out through screens and media outlets. But by this time, the floods, mainly in the regions of Sindh and Balochistan, had been enduring for weeks, hidden from the world. The silence of the mainstream media and international governments was deafening, and once the news finally made it beyond the wall of the media boundaries it was too late. Even then, it was hard to believe how such a catastrophe was happening, how people’s entire lives were being washed away, while the world merely watched, paying attention to other issues, in what seemed to be more important parts of the world, that were more pertinent to them.
The situation in Pakistan is heartbreaking – the UN says that nearly 650 000 women in affected areas are in desperate need of maternity services. Across the country, 1460 health centres have been fully or partially destroyed, and thousands are living in roadside tents without toilets.
The link between the climate crisis and the floods are clear – Pakistan’s Climate Minister Sherry Rehman pointed out to Agence France-Presse: “This is very far from a normal monsoon [season]—it is climate dystopia at our doorstep. We are at the moment at the ground zero of the frontline of extreme weather events, in an unrelenting cascade of heatwaves, forest fires, flash floods, multiple glacial lake outbursts, flood events, and now the monster monsoon of the decade is wreaking nonstop havoc throughout the country.” In Sindh province, the amount of rainfall was 4.5 times more than the average for the last 30 years.
What is even more infuriating, is that the country is not even marginally responsible for the climate crisis, yet it has been one of the worst affected, in a human-made disaster that is only one symptom of the climate emergency the world is facing, an emergency that has been created by, and benefited, wealthy states and companies in the global North, but has devastated mostly peoples of the global South. The country director of the International Rescue Committee, Shabnam Baloch has said “Despite producing less than 1% of the world’s carbon footprint, the country is suffering the consequences of the world’s inaction and stays in the top 10 countries facing the consequences.”
As long as governments and corporations continue to perpetuate the ugliest elements of the capitalist system, by allowing and encouraging fossil fuel extraction, it is very likely this will not be the last floods in Pakistan, just like Cyclones Idai and Kenneth will not be the last in Mozambique, or the recent floods will not be the last in Durban. But these culprits refuse to be held responsible, so we need to make sure they too are nearly deafened by the screeching siren they themselves have set off.