September 15, 2010

Flooding in Pakistan a sign of climate change

By Ai Lung Nguyen - September 2010.

ENVIRONMENT - Pakistan is normally a relatively dry country.

Monsoon season effects Pakistan's neighbour India far more while Iran and Pakistan have very little rain in a normal year. The recent catastrophic flooding in Pakistan hasn't just moved millions of people and destroyed their homes, its been so severe its cut new rivers from the soil and rock. The intensity of the flooding is unheard of in the normally dry country.

This however could prove useful to Pakistan's economy in the future, as their climate shifts from being a more arid one to a country with a lot more water and agricultural capabilities. Adapting to this change in terms of agriculture will take time and effort

However in the meantime the flooding has contaminated Pakistan's wells, which means even traditional drinking water sources are now polluted and a source of disease. Millions of Pakistan's people rely on traditional dug wells and aquifiers and the increasing urbanization of Pakistan has put greater demand on a limited supply of clean water.

The history of flooding in Pakistan (or lack thereof) suggests that there will be less droughts in the country and more severe rain. In contrast China is seeing more mudslides and sandstorms, and Russia is seeing more hot, dry weather and forest/grass fires. The cost of these environmental changes will hurt the farming industries in these countries and should be noted that agriculture's effect on GDP is often unknown because a lot of food production goes on that isn't really tracked because its consumed locally and often traded using a barter system in rural cultures which often lack hard currency.

Thus the economic damages of droughts and flooding isn't just limited to the homes effected and the crops destroyed. The whole system is disrupted and money is worthless when you don't have food to eat and clean water to drink.

The technology and equipment to filter and clean large amounts of water is available, but the infrastructure to distribute it to millions of Pakistani flood refugees doesn't exist.

Parts of the landscape now look like lakes and people wonder if they will ever be able to return home.

Meanwhile in Agra, India, the Taj Mahal has been flooded.

A bad omen for the future? Maybe. Or perhaps its a sign of the times and proof that climate change is here to stay.

Interpret it as you will.

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