Pakistan issues heat wave alert. The federal government claims that this is occurring after several decades. Federal Minister for Climate Change Senator Sherry Rehman has called upon provincial governments and relevant federal departments to take precautionary actions in an effective manner to mitigate against the impacts of a heat spell that is gripping Pakistan.
She said, “The Ministry of Climate Change has issued an official heatwave warning in an advisory note addressed to the concerned federal and provincial organizations, with particular attention drawn towards the relatively high temperatures and heatwave in certain parts of the country. While the country is grappling with the heatwave, it is imperative for all of the stakeholders to take precautionary actions in an effective and timely manner as per recommendations made in the Technical Report on Karachi Heatwave’ of the Ministry of Climate Change.
Heat Waves in Pakistan
This is the first time in decades that Pakistan is experiencing what many call a “spring-less year” in March 2022. She stated, “South Asia, particularly India and Pakistan are faced with what has been a record-breaking heatwave.” It started in early April and continues to leave the people gasping in whatever shade they find. The global weather forecasting organizations have predicted that temperatures in Pakistan and India this year could soar up to 49 to 50 degree Celsius, which is a direct repercussion of climate stress. It has been predicted that temperatures in Pakistan could rise by 6 to 8 degree Celsius above average temperatures.
According to the Meteorological Department’s reports, March has remained the hottest month recorded since 1961. In addition to that, rainfall in this season was 62% less than the previous years. The heatwave, unfortunately, came at an especially grueling time during the holy month of Ramzan. Urban residents with tin or asbestos roofs have suffered the most. The outcome of unusually high temperature and insufficient rainfall is harmful for agriculture output and public health.
Climate Change in Pakistan
She noted, “Frequent and intense droughts, storms, heatwaves, rising sea levels, melting glaciers and warming oceans are impending challenged faced as a result of climate change. These issues now directly harm animals, destroy their habitats, and wreak havoc on the people’s lives and livelihoods. Local media has reported that early heatwaves are leading to fires on farms just as the winter wheat crop is ready to be harvested. The increased evaporation from reservoirs is a cause of concern for authorities especially as the country grapples with severe water scarcity. However, adaptation measures are key to boost climate resilience of the people, ecosystems and economies. Measures must be taken by the relevant federal and provincial stakeholders to deal with the negative fallouts of the heatwave, by building the capacity of individuals and communities to respond appropriately.”
Tree Plantation in Pakistan
She further said that Green spaces need to be increased by tree plantation in the city on emergency basis. Provincial and District governments should issue special directives in this context besides monitoring its implementation. The MET department would have to commit to providing improved and upgraded early-warning heat forecasts. The heat island effect can be counteracted slightly by using white or reflective materials to build houses, roofs, pavements, and roads, thus increasing the overall albedo of the city, the minister emphasized. Green roofs, the practice of having vegetation of the roof, are another method of decreasing the urban heat island effect. The plants that are on the roof increase the albedo and decrease the urban heat island effect.
For an effective short term solution to dealing with the current rising temperatures, cool centers facilitated with drinking water and fans may be established at public places and along the main avenues, along with tree shaded rest areas.
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She concluded by saying, “A heatwave in the month of March and April is unprecedented and alarming, putting the public at risk. However, international organizations had already warned of a severe and prolonged heatwave in Pakistan. People are urged to take precautionary measures to avoid extreme heat.”