Pakistan is considered one of the disaster-prone countries in Asia. Natural disasters such as droughts, floods and heat waves have become common in the country. Among these, floods have been recognized as the most severe form of natural disaster.
According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Report 2015, groundwater resources in Pakistan are very limited and have already reduced from 5600 m3 (at the time of Independence 1947) to 1200 m3 (per capita). Due to low water availability, the frequency of droughts had been higher in the Balochistan and Sindh region, according to climate data. Millions of hectares of land in the country experience annual rainfall of less than 30 mm, and some hectares of land suitable for agriculture are subject to wind and water erosion, waterlogging, loss of organic matter and salinity. Several other severe drought episodes were recorded in 1967-69, 1971, 1973-75, 1994, 1998-2002 and most recently in 2009-15.
On the other hand, Pakistan has a long history of floods and the floods of 1928, 1929, 1955, 1957, 1959, 1973, 1973, 1976, 1976, 1988, 1988, 1992, 1992, 1995, 1995, 1996, 1997, 2001, 2008, 2010 and recent 2020 share the saddest. events with tremendous damage in the country. The 2010 floods, as a result of heavy monsoon rains, affected the Indus River basin. 1/5 of the country’s total land area was under water, approximately 796 095 square km (307 374 square miles). The floods directly affected some 20 million people, mainly through the destruction of property, livelihoods and infrastructure, with a death toll approaching 2,000, according to Pakistan government data. Pakistan Meteorological Department data in 2010 recorded heavy rains of more than 200 millimeters (7.9 inches) in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab provinces.
At one time, Pakistan faced severe drought conditions due to extremely low rainfall that caused extreme famine conditions affecting 3.3 million families, and at other times the country faced the most destructive form of flooding. Several factors are responsible for vulnerabilities to changing climatic conditions.
The main dynamic pressures on society that cause vulnerability are the fragile natural environment, lack of education and awareness, environmental degradation, explosive population growth, poor construction practices, poverty, weak agricultural practices, poor early warning systems, and deforestation. Uncontrolled free grazing of livestock (Tragedy of the Commons), and aridity is one of the causes of droughts and deforestation. These play a role in the flood equation because trees strengthen the soil and prevent soil erosion and absorb water efficiently. Fewer trees = more flooding
Climate change and glacier melting
According to the Fourth Assessment Report on climate change by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the 2009 Copenhagen Climate Change Conference, “Glaciers have been the most visible indicators of Climate Change.” The northern part of Pakistan occupies glaciers in the Karakoram, Hindu Kash and Himalayan range covering about 13,680 km2 representing about 13% of the mountainous regions of the upper Indus basin.
Glaciers are important aspects of climate change because they provide important information and talk about past climate that is preserved in the core specifically trapped in air bubbles, and this scientific information allows the scientist to assess past climate change and predict future trends. It also analyzes the current climate change situation, as they are very sensitive to temperature, and to unusual weather conditions.
The study of glaciers provides the basis for climate change and global warming. Glaciers are retreating and wasting away globally, which shows the sign of global warming. On the other hand, it has also been reported that in some cases glaciers are neither wasting nor retreating, but the pattern of snow melting and feeding capacity has increased with the passage of time, which is the main cause of hazards. According to the Government of Pakistan, the global average temperature due to global warming is expected to increase from 1.5 °C to 6 °C by the end of this century, and these changes are responsible for a perceptible increase in floods, storms and forest fires.
Some glaciers in Pakistan are growing due to rapidly changing seasonal variations and the summer and winter seasons are getting shorter. The main sources of freshwater in Pakistan are glaciers, on which almost 50 million people depend, and changes in glaciers definitely affect the population. Most of the glacier melting coincides with monsoon rains, increasing flood risks. Climate change in the Indus basin is not uniform; temperature increase in both summers and winters will be higher in the northern part of Pakistan compared to the southern part of the country and these changes are the cause of variability in monsoons adding water stress conditions in the arid and semi-arid region of the country.