Climate Change Minister Sherry Rehman on Wednesday said that 77 people had been killed across Pakistan due to the ongoing monsoon rains thus far this year, with 39 being reported from just Balochistan—the highest from any province.
Addressing a press conference, she said the deaths were a “national tragedy,” adding hundreds of homes had been destroyed and rescue operations for remote areas were being hampered due to the persistent heavy rains. Stressing that the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) had prepared a national monsoon contingency plan, she urged the public to exercise caution in the coming weeks to ensure their lives and property were protected.
“We need a comprehensive plan to avert this, as all of this destruction is taking place due to climate change,” she said, adding that Pakistan had received 87 percent more rainfall than average since June 14. Of this, she said, the most rain was received by Balochistan and Sindh—274% and 261% above normal—thus far. “Pakistan has become the sixth most affected country due to climate change and the prime minister has also directed to focus on climate change events,” she said. “Media is also requested to sensitize masses on precautionary measures during the monsoon disasters,” she added.
Rehman noted that the pre-monsoon rainfall had started in June and 16 glacial lake outburst flood (GLOF) events had been recorded this season due to an extreme heatwave, compared to 5-6 such events in previous years. She said after the country’s south, the monsoon was heading toward the country’s north—especially Punjab—and reiterated calls for greater caution.
“The Ministry of Climate Change is actively pursuing legislation, and through coordination has approved the first National Hazardous Waste Management Policy,” she said of recent measures. “The ministry is not giving further NOCs for importing toxic waste and it has written letters to the consulates of the countries [exporting waste] to apprise them on illegal dumping of hazardous waste to Pakistan from their side,” she added.
“Pakistan can recycle only 30 percent of its waste, which is a challenge that demands national response to enhance capacity and management skills of the industry associated to it,” said the climate change minister. “We will start 300 trees’ plantation with the prime minister after monsoon to start nature conservation. We will have to take very difficult decisions that will impact industry to ensure climate resilience of the country,” she added.
Rehman also warned of water scarcity, stressing that it would resume after the monsoon season and would remain a principle issue of Pakistan. Water conservation, she emphasized, was absolutely necessary for the future of the country.