Pakistan experienced severe floods in mid-June 2022. This was caused by heavy rainfalls, rain-induced landslides, and glaciers melting. According to reports, this flood was the most severe in the history of the nation. All four provinces of the nation were affected, along with 15% of the total population. Agricultural land and forests were also harmed.
These floods affected approximately 33 million people and killed approximately 1,739 people. Additionally, 14.9 billion dollars in losses and 15.2 billion dollars in damages were incurred due to flooding. Children made up one-third of all reported deaths and injuries. Sindh accounted for over 50% of all deaths and 66% of all injuries, while Punjab reported 30% of all injuries. Both Balochistan and the KPK reported about 19% of all deaths.
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Cause of Flood
These floods can be attributed to climate change. Prior to the arrival of this monsoon, Sindh and Baluchistan were experiencing mild to moderate dry seasons. This year, Baluchistan received 600 percent more rainfall than average, and Sindh received 500 percent. According to the Global Climate Risk Index 2021, Pakistan is among the top ten nations in the world most severely impacted by catastrophic weather events despite having a relatively low carbon footprint.
According to Pakistan’s Climate Change Policy from last year, the impacts of earth’s climate change are already being felt in Pakistan due to the melting of glaciers, an increase in the number of droughts and flooding, irregular weather patterns, a decrease in the availability of fresh water, and a decrease in biodiversity.
The UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, paid a visit to Pakistan in September and said that he had never seen a natural disaster of this size. He asked the global community for urgent help.
Impacts on Agriculture and Food Security
As a result of the devastation induced by catastrophic flooding and landslides, ecosystems like forests and wetlands have been damaged, and enormous quantities of debris have been created. Agricultural lands have been destroyed, and animals have been killed. The livelihoods of millions of people depend on agriculture and livestock.
They are a source of food for them as well as a source of income, as they sell these animals and use the profit to purchase new seed for cultivation. Therefore, the damage to animals and crops has substantial consequences for food and economic security.
According to reports, about 1.1 million farm animals have died as a result of floods, including around 5 lac in Baluchistan, over 4 lac in Sindh, and over 2 lac in Punjab.
According to a report issued by the FAO, approximately 9.4 million acres of cropland in Pakistan had been flooded in August. This comprises 4.8 million acres in Sindh, 2.7 million acres in Punjab, 1.2 million acres in Balochistan, and 714,000 acres in KPK. This adversely affected the lives of people living in these areas and also decreased the availability of organic products like meat, milk, etc.
Officials estimate that the floods damaged around 15% of the rice crops in Pakistan and 40% of the cotton crop. Floodwaters destroyed the personal grain stocks on which many rural families relied. This will exacerbate the country’s food shortage problem. Between January and March 2023, it is projected that an additional 1.1 million individuals will enter the emergency food security phase.
WFP reported that the consumer price index indicated a significant increase in the inflation rate. Flooding disrupted the supply of items and increased their prices by 27.26%. Since January 2022, the cost of a kilogramme of rice has increased by approximately 80% in some regions of Pakistan. About a fourth of Pakistan’s agricultural production comes from the province of Sindh.
This means that crop damage and lower yields in Sindh could have severe implications for the country’s food security situation. Losses of cattle and damaged crops will further impoverish already-vulnerable people. Poverty might rise by 5.9%, according to the post-disaster needs assessment, putting an extra 1.9 million families at risk of falling into poverty. In addition to farmers and livestock herders, Pakistani fishermen are also suffering.
The floods have damaged more than 2.1 million homes. Approximately 7.9 million people were displaced by the floods. Of the 7.9 million people who have been relocated, 598 000 are housed in relief camps. It is estimated that approximately 8 lac refugees, including approximately 175 600 women, 194,000 girls, and 206,000 boys, live in over 40 disaster-affected areas.
Many of these people will start moving toward urban areas. Peshawar, in KPK, and Quetta, in Balochistan, are the two districts with the largest refugee populations. Most people who move to cities are looking for a safer and better life. Thus, climate change-caused migration has a direct effect on city life.
As a third of Pakistan is covered in floodwaters, residents in devastated regions must relocate in order to survive. Floods have already inflicted sufficient loss of life and economic damage. When local migration happens, the government is accountable to fulfil the migrants’ needs, yet the government itself faces economic challenges.
Without the help of international and nongovernmental groups, Pakistan can’t meet the needs of migrants. If the migrants, who have already experienced the pain caused by the floods, are not cared for, their resentment may also contribute to the conflict.
Their primary need is survival, and they will go to any lengths to achieve it.
Unless the government meets all of their wants, they will have complaints. People are migrating to metropolitan regions, particularly the largest cities. If their needs are not met, there is a great likelihood that crime rates will also be high.
Security Implications of Climate Induced Migrations
The migration of a significant number of people is expected to place a strain on the resource and economic bases of the receiving regions (URBAN). Hence it will increase competition over finite resources. For example, migrants and locals may fight for land, employment, healthcare, education, and welfare services.
Climate migration can also lead to ethnic conflicts when people from different ethnic groups compete for resources with migrants.
In the aftermath of Pakistan’s 2010 floods, which were less severe but still affected millions of people, the Pakistani Taliban gave relief to local populations and regarded the arrival of Western humanitarian organizations as “inappropriate.” At that time, sources stated that the help provided by the Taliban was accompanied by the admonition, “Do not believe the government and its western friends.”
During the 2010 crisis, the humanitarian wing of the violent extremist organization Lashkar-e-Taiba had more than 2,000 staff working on flood assistance. Similar dynamics will certainly arise throughout the next several months.
In recent years, Islamic State Khorasan, a group that was established in 2015, has increased its recruitment efforts in Balochistan. It was one of the regions most impacted by today’s flooding. Multiple news sources have noted accusations from displaced individuals that the state has been inactive and unwilling to assist them, potentially allowing extremist organizations to give support.
The climate-induced floods that hit Pakistan in mid-June 2022 have severe security implications. It has caused poverty and extreme food insecurity in Pakistan. Due to this food insecurity, people will start migrating to the cities. We have already seen in the cases of Peshawar and Quetta.
This migration will result in competition for resources and may fuel ethnic conflicts. In addition to this, violent extreme groups may find this an opportunity to start investments in the flood affected regions. They may try to attract young people towards them. Thus, the government needs to take climate security seriously and adopt climate mitigation strategies and policies.
The government also needs to address the water problem by using different strategies like building small dams, planting trees, etc., so that more than average rainfall does not lead to floods.