Despite a rich policy landscape that addresses climate changes, food security, and disaster risk management, the recent flooding has displaced almost 33 million people and effected fiscal sustainability in Pakistan. The risk of debt distress and low credit rating will make Pakistan further hard up for cash to deal with recurring crises.
Climate change is one of the key drivers of hunger for a country like Pakistan that is heavily dependent on agriculture production. According to Asian Development Bank (ADB) estimates, more than 216.5 million people in Pakistan live along River Indus, an area prone to flooding.
INFORM, an open source risk assessment forum, has predicted that Pakistan has high-risk class on account of floods and public conflicts for year 2023. Climate changes can lead to high-impact events such as extreme level of rural and urban flooding, socioeconomic inequalities and intensification of class conflicts.
According to the World Bank estimates, 50 percent of the world population lives in cities and these urban areas emit 70 percent of Green House Gasses (GHG). Climate changes will affect cities with heavy rains, coastal flooding, drought, higher temperatures and extreme heat events — all evident from the recent chain of events in Pakistan. Rise in sea level along with melting of glaciers can enhance frequent unpleasant events. A reactive approach to manage disaster risk will lead to social inequalities and vast devastations.
We are caught in this storm because of ad hocism in policies and steering the boat in wrong direction. Fast approaching tipping points in climate change are main contributors to disaster risk. We cannot shrug them off anymore. Managing situation arising from melting of glaciers, urban flooding risk and climate changes are functions of disaster risk management (DRM).
It is imperative in disaster risk management that households and governments have financing strategy and resources to reduce losses from disaster events.
Pakistan’s response to disaster risk was addressed in the National Disaster Risk Management Framework. After the 2005 earthquake, the National Disaster Management Act, 2010 was promulgated and National Disaster Management Plan was made to proactively respond to disaster risk. The country faces funding challenges for disaster risk reduction and disaster response. Heavily decentralised approach to disaster risk management further complicates the situation.
The Asian Development Bank’s recent report on risk protection shows that significant work is needed to operationalise the federal emergency fund. The report demystifies that federal government only has limited contingency funding to respond to national emergencies. The National Disaster Management Act 2010 decentralised the responsibilities for the implementation of DRR to the provincial and district levels. Absence of true local government and lack of operational local community development plans have rendered the DRR mechanism ineffective. Reactive coordination among provincial level Early Warning System (EWS) and inadequate funding facilities for relief activities are main impediments to mitigate disaster risk.
Pakistan has integrated the UN Sustainable Development Goals in its national plan. Climate changes are interlinked with existing critical infrastructure issues, rapid urbanisation, financial constraints and systemic inequities. Climate action and many other development goals require radical changes. There are urgent economic, social, ecological issues that need unanimous political will. Economic policy uncertainties are on rise since the last two years.
Economic Policy Uncertainty index by the State Bank of Pakistan is showing that policies have direct effects on disaster risk and it would be difficult to carve out sustainable development policies in politically uncertain environment.
We need a political discourse on the ecological footprint of excessive urbanisation. Consumption of resources more than the bio-capacity of the country, population explosion, deforestation, erosion of natural resources all need sustainable development policies.
Climate Response Analysis on Pakistan by the World Food Program depicts climate change will cause drought like situation with heavy rain during monsoon. This will affect the supply side of food availability. With projected increase in demand of food, Pakistan already has the second highest rate of malnutrition in the region. Forty percent of Pakistani children under the age of five years of age are stunted (National Nutrition Survey) and 29 percent are underweight. The impact of disruptive events of such magnitude will increase food insecurity and inadequate diet. These numbers will increase manifolds because of the recent floods. The National Flood Response and Coordination Centre (NFRCC) has estimated overall damages only from the recent flood will amount to over $30 billion.
In August 2022, the food prices increased sharply. Food inflation in Pakistan is almost 26 percent according to the World Bank estimates. To increase social protection programme, and give ad hoc relief, the government of Pakistan has provided targeted subsidies to poor. Nearly four million families are given Rs25,000 in cash in flood-hit areas under the Benazir Income Support Programme, but the devastation is far more.
At this junction, kharif crops (rice, sugarcane, and cotton) have been washed away by the floods and rabi crops (wheat and gram) is in danger. Both kharif and rabi crops play a role in agricultural production and contribute to the national GDP.
At this junction, kharif crops (rice, sugarcane, and cotton) have been washed away by the floods and rabi crops (wheat and gram) is in danger. Both kharif and rabi crops play a role in agricultural production and contribute to the national GDP. In anticipation, the Ministry of Planning, Development & Special Initiatives has lowered the GDP estimate by two notches to approximately 3 percent. Higher fertiliser prices and other input costs along with the residual silt of floods, will make the rabi harvest more difficult.
The gap between losses from disaster and monetary relief to the affected people will widen. It is imperative in disaster risk management that households and governments have financing strategy and resources to reduce losses from disaster events. Community-based financial institutions, like micro-financing institutions (MFI), are vital in the rehabilitation efforts. Along with long-term development plans that address DRM, the local financial institutions must be established to ensure the availability of finances on the community level.
On the national level, issuance of Catastrophe Bond (CAT) as a publicly-funded state insurance programme can work as an effective financing strategy. Catastrophe Bonds are insurance linked securities. They were created in the mid-1990s after Hurricane Andrew. Advanced countries are incentivised to invest in CAT in response to climate changes.
Neither international relief grants nor local philanthropy can compensate national and individual losses. We need wider socio-economic changes along with community building institutes. Time for ad hoc decision-making has lapsed. Social inclusion, early warning system and financing strategies are needed.
Disaster risk reduction is key to lower the impact of risks. Delayed responses to disasters result in human losses and calamity.
We must stop sleepwalking through climate changes.