It is no more just semantics. It is a Climate Emergency

More than 33 million people in Pakistan have been affected by floods since June this year. Bangladesh is grappling with both floods and drought. And in India, early heatwaves, followed by early floods, and now drought-like conditions in the Indo-Gangetic Plains, have affected our main food crops – wheat and paddy. Meanwhile, wildfires are raging in Oregon (USA), and Europe is battling the worst drought in 500 years.

Nidhi JamwalNidhi Jamwal   29 Aug 2022 12:47 PM GMT

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It is no more just semantics. It is a Climate Emergency

Floods in Pakistan has been described as a “serious climate catastrophe”. Photo credits: Alkhidmat Foundation Pakistan

More than 33 million people in Pakistan – one in every seven citizens of the south Asian country – are affected by floods caused by extremely heavy (and almost non-stop) rainfall this monsoon season.

It has been described as a "serious climate catastrophe", and officially declared as a 'national emergency' as at least 1,061 people have lost their lives (since June this year), with 119 deaths reported in the past 24 hours alone alone.

"We are at the moment at the ground zero of the front line of extreme weather events, in an unrelenting cascade of heatwaves, forest fires, flash floods, multiple glacial lake outbursts, flood events… and now the monster monsoon of the decade is wreaking non-stop havoc throughout the country," Sherry Rehman, Pakistan's Federal Minister for Climate Change, said in a video posted on Twitter.

"Pakistan has never seen an unbroken cycle of monsoons like this. 8 weeks of non-stop torrents have left huge swathes of the country under water. This is no normal season, this is a deluge from all sides, impacting 33 million plus people, which is the size of a small country," the minister added.

This is the climate crisis scenario on the western side of India. On the eastern side, somewhat similar is the plight of the delta country, Bangladesh, which too has had massive floods this year, from May to July.

Termed as the 'worst floods in 122 years', which affected over four million people in Bangladesh (mostly north and northeast regions), millions remain displaced and hungry, as they have lost their homes, belongings and stored foodgrains/ crops. Global aid is fast drying up.

Also Read: Ground Report: Worst floods in 122 years; over 4 million affected in the second wave of floods in north-east Bangladesh

Gaon Connection reported on the excess rainfall and massive floods this year in Bangladesh. We met victims of flood, who lost everything in the deluge andareleft with no home to go back to. While floods are an annual feature in parts of the country, they seem to be getting more disastrous, and the victims are the poorest of the poor and the marginalised.

Along with the floods in one part of the country, parts of Bangladesh have been facing drought-like conditions that has adversely affected paddy sowing, the country's main crop.

Because of deficient rainfall in the southwest region, farmers have been unable to sow aman paddy, and those who had already done so are faced with saplings that are withering due to insufficient rainfall. This is likely to add to the food crisis triggered by the massive floods earlier this year.

Paddy fields, which are usually found full of stagnant water, are seen developing cracks due to dryness. Photo: Rafiqul Islam Montu

Also Read: After suffering 'worst floods in 122 years', several regions in Bangladesh face drought; paddy crop badly hit

In India, excess rainfall has triggered flash floods in several states. And like Bangladesh, floods arrived early (mid-May) and caused heavy destruction in the northeast.

As part of its ground report, Gaon Connection spoke with people from Assam who said that Bordoisilla (Assamese term for pre-monsoon rainfall and thunderstorm) was never this 'violent'. This year, the pre-monsoon rainfall led to the destruction of bridges and roads, and displaced hundreds of thousands of people in the northeastern state.

As on May 19 this year, an estimated 600,000 people were affected by the raging floods, which had inundated a total of 26 districts in Assam, and as per the Assam State Disaster Management Authority, the death toll had risen to 11.

Also Read: Assam floods: No respite from heavy rains, residents astonished as usually soothing 'Bordoisilla' turns destructive

While floods subsided in Assam, heavy rainfall and flash floods have caused mayhem in the Himalayan states of Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, and parts of Jammu & Kashmir. Every other day, visuals of crumbling mountains appear on social media as a grim reminder of all that is going wrong with our 'development' model in the times of a changing climate.

Himalayan states aside, we recently also had floods in Rajasthan, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh, which have affected millions of people. Gaon Connection travelled to flood-hit villages in Vidisha district of Madhya Pradesh and met people who had lost everything in the floods except the clothes on their backs. Crops and farmlands were destroyed; all stored food grains washed away.

And, amid the floods, there are drought-like conditions prevailing in parts of India. Deficient rainfall in the Indo-Gangetic Plains, where key paddy growing states are located, is turning into a grave problem.

For instance, as of today, August 29, Uttar Pradesh has reported a deficient monsoon rainfall of minus 44 per cent (IMD data). Neighbouring state of Bihar has received minus 39 per cent deficient rainfall. Jharkhand has minus 26 per cent deficient rainfall.

Gaon Connection, as part of its Paddy Pain series, has done a number of ground reports from these states to highlight the issue of drought and floods in the country. Climate experts, for years, have been warning of the rise of such extremes locally and globally.

Multiple scientific reports published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the United Nations body for assessing the science related to climate change, have been warning of the impact of climate change and need for both mitigation and adaptation.

Lest we forget, climate change has a direct impact on our agriculture and crop production, and can lead to a serious global food crisis.

And the year 2022, has proved to be a classic warning. The heatwaves arrived early this year in March, which affected wheat, menthol, mango, litchi, apple, tomato and several other crops.

The Indian government had to revise its annual target for wheat output this year due to a drop in wheat yield (directly linked to the early heatwaves). It had to put in place curbs on wheat exports too. Gaon Connection has been reporting on this issue since early this year.

Also Read: India prohibits wheat exports: Is it too little, too late?

And now, with drought conditions in key paddy growing states, curbs on rice export are also likely. Any changes in the domestic agriculture sector is going to have global repercussions as India is the world's top rice exporter, and it's wheat exports have also been rising fast (48.56 per cent compounded annual growth rate during 2016-2020, as per official figures).

There was a time the impact of climate change was felt mostly by the communities living in the global south. However, in the past decade, impacts of climate change have become well pronounced in the developed countries as well, be it the raging wildfire in Oregon or Europe's worst drought in 500 years.

Climate change does not 'respect' international boundaries; it does not differentiate between the 'developed' and the 'developing' world. Sooner than later it will impact everyday lives of each one of us. It is a 'climate emergency' and that is how the world needs to respond to it.

#Pakistan #floods #ClimateChange #story 

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