Since May last, when Environment Minister Sherry Rehman warned the country of the excessive rains this year, I have been following the weather patterns and the news related to rain, climate change and ensuing flooding. I was aware of the fact that Pakistan saw back-to-back below-average monsoons in the last four years. The word ‘rain’ brings about the feeling of romance, pakora, chai, and prosperity in our part of the world. But our inability to tame the ‘outrageous Sawan ka maheena’ has seen the lives of millions of Pakistanis ruined.
The bad weather has triggered a discussion on politics on floods. Frankly speaking, politics is always good on critical issues, and there does not exist anything called ‘bad politics. Even if someone tries to play ‘bad politics’ on the flood, this can be tackled with ‘good politics’ and at the end of the day, this political drama brings about something good for the flood-hit people. Some factions are calling on opposition figurehead Imran Khan to forget the throne for the time being and alleviate the sufferings of the flood victims. Imran Khan, however, while addressing a rally in Jhelum on Saturday, gave a shut-up call to the sections and factions of the media trying to keep him away from “politics” in this hour of calamity. His pressure is working out: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif is on the ground; Maryam Nawaz has visited flood-hit areas of south Punjab, while provincial governments are trying hard to outpace each other flood relief works.
That is the real fruit of politics.
If politics continues, people will hold accountable the governments of the day for the lack of preparation to tackle the rains despite a clear forecast and warnings from the weather pundits. Flooding can hardly be called a surprise for the residents of flood-hit areas across the country. No doubt, it is the fiercest counterattack of Nature against the residents of the rural and urban areas of Pakistan.
My heart goes to the farmers of cotton and vegetables in Sindh, Balochistan, south Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Their cotton crops were just a couple of weeks away from the reaping stage. My wife tells me that fruit and vegetables are being sold at their all-time high prices.
My appeal to philanthropists is to step into relief activities as the government alone cannot fight on rescue, relief and rehabilitation fronts. Once the tide of high flood in the Indus is over by the next week, the government’s long-term challenge of giving relief and rehabilitation to the millions of victims will set in. Foreign aid is slow this time, thanks to the recession the world over in the wake of the Russia-Ukraine conflict. The government’s other long-term challenge is to make the most of the rainfall that Pakistan gets. There should be policies to recharge and raise groundwater drawn up by the government for human consumption and cropping.
The recent floods have made at least three million Pakistanis homeless. The vast majority of them are low-income earners or daily wage earners. There are also millions of such people who live as peasants on leased land. They await help from us.
There are reports that the underground water of Lahore and other major is depleting fast. This matter should be pursued scientifically – read politically. On the monsoon as a whole, studies indicate a change in the pattern since 1950 in India. By the time, the monsoon reaches Pakistan, it is less powerful. Still, it is enough to fill up our dams and inundates cities and town. A good lot of rainwater gets no usage. It should be stored for rainy days. Obviously, our governments need to invest consistently to harvest the monsoon, both on the surface and underground, with community participation.