Climate change and man-made disaster puts Karachi on the edge

‘Climate Change is not going to happen in the future, it is here!’

Piece from BBC’s ‘Climate change: Science failed to predict flood and heat intensity’ report sheds light on how computer models are continuously failing to predict severe weather events. Although, numerical tools unable to foresee extreme climatic incidents is not a new subject but my worry is what happens afterwards.

Plan now before it is late

When it comes to Post-Disaster Recovery, the developed world such as America, Europe, Australia and few countries in south-east Asia have the resources, capabilities, awareness and budget to mitigate the crisis but we in the developing world especially South Asia which is vulnerable due to high population density and food shortage is at greater risk. Already our region is in peril because of the changing weather pattern that could lead to economic stagnation. The COVID-19 pandemic has only worsened the situation as governments shift funds and assets to deal with the medical emergency. Not to forget about hostilities that exist between certain countries which has slashed any hope for collaboration for the greater good of the people to address the brewing calamity.

Karachi as a case study

Cyclone-Karachi

A category-3 hurricane makes landfall near Karachi in 1999

On the other hand, we are witnessing a sudden and alarming transformation in the Arabian Sea which is becoming a hotbed for frequent and powerful hurricanes, a phenomena uncommon before the late 1990s. Apart from tropical storms, it is having a significant impact on the Indian monsoon season as well.

Raining a lot more than it should

Taking Karachi, a coastal mega metropolis of 14.9 million people, as a case study. Despite being near the Arabian sea, it usually gets monsoon rains from the Bay of Bengal but lately it has been witnessing rare torrential rains from the Arabian Sea due to the strengthening of low pressure areas. The combination of two weather systems have been catastrophic. In 2020, it experienced its worst flooding in over a century since meteorological records began in 1931. As stated by the Government’s Pak Met Office, ‘it rained more in August 2020 than in the last 20 years’.

The daily (24 hours) and monthly rains were well beyond the normal range.

karachi rainss 24 hour

Source: Pakistan Meteorological Department

karachi monthly

Source: Pakistan Meteorological Department

Humankind has a hand in it as well

Karachi mangroves 1

Mangroves of Karachi – Source: @majjubaba

Due to Karachi’s terrain and landscape whenever there is a monsoon system near the city, ocean tides are high which pushes the floodwater back into the city. It has been further complicated by the devastation of mangroves which acts as a barrier against storm-surge. Most residential houses are built over the natural drainage system as lands continues to be encroached by independent builders.

Expansion of housing schemes is being done without realizing the repercussions it has on the environment. Destruction of the Indus Delta also have adverse effect on the ecosystem. It is worth-mentioning that around 100,000 acres of mangroves were cut around Karachi’s Korangi Creek to make space for residential and commercial activities.

Alternatively, the city also faces water shortage despite receiving ample rains in recent years. Again, private land property owners and housing schemes are blamed.

By 2050, the below areas of Karachi may be sub-merged due to rising sea water.

Karachi Sea levels

High risk areas of Karachi

We are literally at a cross-road! the climate is getting unpredictable and it is a matter of disconcert that computer models are not able to forecast weather abnormalities. Even more problematic is the continuous expansion of residential areas without having any thought of what implications it would have on the environment and misuse of natural resources to benefit one’s own housing scheme is disastrous for the city. The lives of over 14 million people are at stake! And unfortunately, we do not have a plan to deal with what is about to come.

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