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17 January 2020, Friday

Extreme weather and weak disaster management strategies strike Pakistan



From Neelum Valley to Balochistan, casualties increase dues to heavy snowfall and avalanches

PR Daily Brief | Rashmi Ramesh

For Immediate Release

17 January 2020, Friday

The recent avalanches in the Neelum Valley in Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) have nearly killed 80 people, along with destroying residential buildings, snapping communication lines, electricity supplies, and isolating villages due to roadblocks. The avalanche was a result of the heavy snowfall experienced in the region. 

According to weather reports, Pakistan is witnessing one of the harshest winters in two decades. Search and rescue operations are being conducted by the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) as well as the armed forces. 

Elsewhere, Baluchistan also has been adversely affected by heavy snow and floods simultaneously. According to the Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA), an emergency has been declared in Ziarat, Pishin, Harnai, Qila Abdullah, Mastung and Kech districts. To support and increase resilience to disasters and climate change, Norway and Asian Development Bank have agreed to contribute $5 million to the National Disaster Risk Management Fund (NDRMF).

Climate change is not related only to global warming. Extremities and increased intensity in every season define climate change. The intensity of Pakistan's current cold wave is related to such changes. The Global Climate Risk Index, 2018, has noted that Pakistan as the fifth-most affected country by climate change. Extreme weather conditions, continuous droughts, floods and heavy precipitation and frequent earthquakes have been directly responsible for the death of 10000 people from 1999-2018. Few areas in Pakistan occupied Gilgit-Baltistan, are exposed to high risks, given the expansion of the Shisper glacier in the Karakoram Range. It is one of the few glaciers that are expanding in both length and width, causing the debris and ice to move down at a rate of approximately four metres per day. 

While mitigation of climate change needs a long-term plan, adaptation and disaster management is the need of the hour.  Pakistan is one of those countries whose contribution to greenhouse gas emissions is low but is at a more vulnerable position with regards to climate risks. This is mainly due to weak disaster management capabilities. Pakistan lacks financial as well as technical resources to reduce the vulnerability of the population. The government has to focus more on revamping the entire mechanism and strengthening the preparedness of the forces and the population. 

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