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The next wave

Since Covid-19 first appeared on the scene it is as if we are living in a dream; a nightmare to be more precise. Our lives have been deeply impacted and we have lived in fear of this dreaded disease, wearing masks and avoiding crowded places. As if it was not enough, the weather turned against us with unprecedented hostility. I still remember the pleasant memories associated with monsoons in the past. As the clouds gathered, we would make plans for making hot and spicy pakoras (a piece of vegetable or meat, coated in seasoned batter and deep fried) at home and hire a cycle to go cycling with friends. Not many people will remember how easy it was to hire a cycle at that time and also how safe it was to go for a ride on that cycle during pouring rain. This year things were quite different. No ordinary cycle even if it was available could brave or endure the ferocity of torrents of water this unusual monsoon dropped at our doorsteps. Streets became rivers and the mostly neglected drains overflowed, invading houses and redistributing the filth that had been lying in them for years. Yes, there is great huffing and puffing each year heralding the cleaning of these drains but at best these are attempts to rearrange the garbage for photo-shoot opportunities for those in power. In the rural areas of the country it was an even bigger disaster. Large swathes of land came under water and as a friend who often travels by air to Islamabad told me, it was an unbelievable aerial sight. According to him, all he could see from up there was water as if he was travelling on some enormous lake that would just go on and on. How disastrous were these floods? A total of 6,579 km of roads, 246 bridges and almost 1.7 million houses were damaged. Additionally, 177,265 people were rescued and 633,997 people are now living in relief camps while many more are temporarily displaced and being hosted by other households. According to an estimate, 33 million people have been affected by these floods.

While I am concerned with the plight of the displaced and share the sorrow of families that lost their loved ones I am more concerned about the future. I know there is intense debate on how to help the affected people and big government plans to rehabilitate those uprooted by this disaster but I see no discussion, no debate and no plans announced to deal with the challenges of a disaster that looms ahead. As the weather pundits will tell you and ecological experts only reaffirm we are now in the vicious path of climate change and what happened this year is bound to come back next year, albeit with greater force and resultant destruction. I see and hear our policy makers making plans for reconstruction that go into coming years but what happens if in the middle of these great plans the destruction returns and wipes out whatever was regained. Anyone ever thought about that? How many times will we extend the begging bowl for rehabilitation?

In the midst of all this I am really concerned about Karachi. As the weather patterns change and rains turn into torrents unprecedented in the history of this city there is also the lurking danger of cyclones visiting our shores. Maybe you have noticed that in the past two years they are getting closer with one that was so close that for a while we were under its influence though it later drifted away sparing our city. Also there are studies that say Karachi should be ready for a Tsunami. What are we doing should any of these eventualities become a reality?

Many countries in the world threatened by Tsunamis have built protective walls. In Japan, for example, seawalls already cover the border of almost half of Japan’s coastlines to help protect the land from destructive tsunamis. Not satisfied the Japanese are now building a new sea wall which will be 50 ft. high and cover 250 miles. Other countries that have built a sea wall include Vancouver, Canada; Guyana; Galveston, Texas, USA and Pondicherry in India where this wall was built as early as in 1735 by French colonists. Karachi desperately needs a sea wall but there seems to be no move by either the government or its opponents to at least start a dialogue over it. Will we only talk about it when God forbid the unthinkable happens? Karachi is below sea level and one can only imagine the destruction a Tsunami can cause in this city. Hurricanes that are also knocking at our doors and can be the natural result of climate change are also a great danger. Most of our utilities can be wiped out and restoration can take months if not years. It is best to be safe than sorry and I hope those in power at the center and provinces and local governments realize the grave danger this city faces and should this city be hit the economy of the entire country. For the whole country there is an urgent need to realize that climate change is here to stay and government agencies while working to rehabilitate those uprooted in the last deluge should also work on a war-footings to face the next wave, which in all probability will hit the country next year.

Zia Ul Islam Zuberi, "The next wave," Business recorder. 2022-10-22.
Keywords: Economics , More precise , Clouds gathered , Weather turned , Economy , Pakistan , Japan , India , Canada , USA

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