Record monsoon rains, in part due to melting glaciers in Pakistan’s northern mountains, have brought devastating floods that have covered over a third of the country’s surface. According to BBC and UN estimates, around 33 million Pakistani, one in seven people, have been affected by the floods, as more than 500,000 houses have been destroyed or severely damaged. Flood waters have also swept away an estimated 700,000 heads of livestock and damaged over 3.6 million acres of crops. The Sindh province is the hardest hit, receiving 464% more rain than the 30-year average.
According to BBC’s environment correspondent, Matt McGrath, Pakistan has the largest number of glaciers outside of polar regions. The high temperatures registered this summer, attributed in part to human-induced climate change, have led to more available water from the melting ice in the Himalayas. Other factors are also at play, like the long-term deforestation and the government’s failure to adapt the infrastructure since the last major flooding event in 2010.
In a recent effort to mitigate the devastating effects of the flood, Pakistan authorities have breached the country’s largest freshwater lake. Lake Manchar, usually used for water storage, had reached dangerous levels. The decision to breach it has displaced almost 100,000 people from their homes, but it is expected to save more densely populated areas from gathering flood water and to reduce water levels in other, harder hit areas.
The Heritage Foundation Pakistan, led by Yasmeen Lari, Pakistan’s first woman architect, has designed easy-to-build shelters for displaced people. The community is directly involved in building the shelters using local and accessible materials like bamboo and reed. The organization is also helping create trenches for rainwater collection and diversion in flooded areas. The team led by Lario is setting up an easy-to-follow methodology that involved the locals, empowering them to take action.
The rainwater drainage process coordinated by a team of experts has started to get executed with the support of the villagers. A low-cost approach has been studied and analyzed starting from the aquifer trench, which will serve to collect the stagnant rainwater that is 8/9 inches deep and spread over at various locations in the distressed area. All actions will include maximum participation of affected households themselves, strengthening their capabilities and skills. Targeted training modules are in fact offered for implementing partners, volunteers, artisans and communities. The strategy also includes the transfer of prefabricated bamboo shelters that will be directly sent to the villages and composed on-site by the community. - Yasmeen Lari, Heritage Foundation CEO
Floods are one of the most common natural hazards, accounting for approximately 43% of hazard events from 1995 to 2015, according to C40 Knowledge Hub. Climate change is worsening the effects of this type of natural disaster, as some estimates announce that the number of people affected is expected to double by 2030 compared to 2010. Urban developments are usually vulnerable due to their proximity to rivers and the poor management of water systems in urban spaces.