I hope you’re angry about these floods. It’ll take Pakistan years, possibly decades, to ‘rehabilitate’ from the colossal scale of devastation to lives, livelihood, livestock, agriculture, businesses, infrastructure, trees and terrain. Let me put it another way. Generations of 33 plus million families will pay the price for a flood that they didn’t cause. How is any of it fair?
Unless indifference has consumed your soul, your cycle of emotions over the past few weeks should’ve oscillated along these lines; initial visuals of the floods should’ve muted you into shock which transcended into Godfearing horror, then your entire nervous system should’ve dropped into sunken grief, suddenly risen into anger and then again plummeted into grief. These floods should’ve shaken your conscience and then brought you back to anger. This rapid oscillation of crippling emotions is the bare basic you should be feeling for your sinking country and her people.
However, emotions are only as useful as your self-awareness about who or what is responsible for arousing them. For me, overwhelming grief and anger, both intertwined and weaving in and out of each other, have made these floods feel personal.
Some honest reflection also clarified to me as to who I’m so angry at, and how my anger came in three distinct waves:
The first wave came when I initially realised the lethal intensity of these floods and how climate change has exacerbated them. The yearly monsoon cycles increased from 4 to 8 in number, higher temperatures caused clouds to store more water vapour triggering them to burst into torrential rainfall, and our cherished glaciers melted to show us the fatal strength that their beauty hides. Pakistan contributes a negligible amount of about 0.8% to global greenhouse gas emissions. Yet, my country has been forced to pay a price no one can afford, for a phenomenon it did not cause. High emitting nations are now empathising and donating so we may ‘rehabilitate,’ but can this compensate for the damage they’ve already done? I’m allowed to be angry.
The second wave of my anger was directed at poor planning and governance failures. Months were spent bickering on alleged foreign conspiracies and political party loyalties, while those in charge knew that Pakistan is threatened by floods. The months before the preempted monsoons should’ve been spent prepping for a likely eventuality by finalizing supply chain and vendor contracts, purchasing heavy machinery, boats and dewatering pumps, drawing evacuation plans, constructing rainfall harvesting systems, strengthening vulnerable infrastructure and building capacity within existing government regulatory bodies. Yet early warning systems were low priority while the national media focused on broadcasting vile political mudslinging. Now children are dead. Even once the floods started wreaking havoc, political jalsas with repetitive speeches continued, and a national emergency that should’ve brought forward the rapid distribution of already stored ration and medicines became photo ops of political leaders faux feeding a few selected flood victims. Will one meal surrounded by photographers make up for all the days the rest of the 33 million Pakistanis are sleeping hungry? Does anyone even realize the extent of food insecurity that will follow in the wake of these floods? I’m allowed to be angry.
My third wave of anger remains evolving as I witness the poor handling of flood victims and their mutating needs. This country has received aid, donations and assistance from all around the world. Yet, 65,000 accounted for women are pregnant amongst the flood victims and will deliver the next generation of Pakistanis into cold, unhygienic flood water. Every day people are succumbing to gastrointestinal infections, cholera, malaria and dengue. Food distribution is still not equitable, with only a few of the relief camps receiving aid. Food and supplies are not reaching far flung villages, which were once self-sufficient in the middle of nowhere. Medical assistance continues to be limited or unavailable. Food trucks are being looted. Some districts, like Dadu, are still besieged by water. People are sleeping under the open sky as biting winter nights approach, and yet there is still no accountability, no transparency and no mechanism in place even after three months of being submerged by a national tragedy. I’m allowed to be angry.
I don’t know when and if my anger will be reduced, but I do know that nature’s wrath is unforgiving. Humans disturbed and angered nature and now she’ll win at all costs, even if that means dishonorably annihilating the poorest of the poor first.
Climate change is here to stay and devastate. It’s also much bigger than political allegiances.
Our only real chance at surviving the next floods is to sink or swim together as a nation. This means demanding national level preparation, coordination, accountability and commitment to disaster management today. Even at the peak of your anger, your resolve should be to demand disaster preparation.