What is happening on the ground in Pakistan?
It started with heatwaves that went over 50 degrees celsius. It was so bad that if you went outside – humidity was so bad too - it was like your skin was being boiled. Where I lived, it was like 45 degrees. And I lived in one of the more privileged areas in Pakistan, in the capital. That is how it all started.
It was to the extent that when the heatwaves in the UK hit, they declared an emergency over there. I had a conversation with a few people in Pakistan who were laughing about this – saying this is nothing, compared to what was happening in Pakistan. We were saying no one was acknowledging what was happening in Pakistan or the impacts of climate change on the country. Was it because we weren’t a European country?
After the heatwaves, we had fires – a lot of trees burned across the country. Pakistan didn’t have the organisations or the resources to stop those fires. Neither do we have adaptation plans or disaster risk management. Pakistan was already going through an economic crisis. This was huge, as it was becoming difficult to afford basic necessities in the country. On top of that, we were going through a political crisis with a government being overthrown. Even if we saw the floods coming, the government was too busy with their own political fights to have done anything about it.
So now, the floods started in June. It has rained way more than it was supposed to. We had no plan to respond to that or take care of that. Now it’s so bad, to the extent that over a thousand people are dead. It’s actually devastating. We have been so desensitised to what is happening – literally just because it’s happening in Pakistan, and not in Europe. Because it’s Pakistan, no one cares.
Imagine losing one family member and how that devastates someone. Imagine your entire community is gone. That is what is happening in Pakistan.
More than 35 million people across the country have been affected by the flooding – with so many displaced too. That is more than the entire population of Australia! Hundreds of children are dead. It’s crazy. And no one has anywhere to go. Around 60-70% of Pakistan are affected by the floodwaters. It’s like a whole country is basically flooded. If you look at the videos, it’s just water and there’s nothing there. Some of the stories that are coming out are crazy. Even talking about it makes me want to start sobbing.
I have been a climate activist for five years. It makes me think: what help has my activism done at all? Was it worth anything? It’s just heartbreaking, especially when it’s your own country. Some countries are giving Pakistan aid and charity. But the country needs a significant amount of money to fix this.
How has climate change and flooding impacted women and youth?
When we had the heatwaves – the heatwaves alone affected tens of thousands of women. It really affects them. In Pakistan, women are most likely to live in poverty. Women having to work – having to make food for families. In terms of the floods, women in any crisis are obviously more affected.
One of the biggest conversations that are happening in regard to impact of the floods on women is about menstrual hygiene. If you don’t have basic necessities like bathrooms and menstrual hygiene products – what are you meant to do?
Pakistan’s population is also so young. There are so many young people who are dead. What is most heartbreaking, is that these people didn’t have to die. They could have easily survived. If it was anything else, it might be less devastating. But when it is people and communities who didn’t have a choice. You have to ask the question ‘why’?
We need the entire government to advocate for climate action collectively. It requires collaboration. One Ministry just can’t do it. It’s the kind of issue that is just going to get worse.
How did it get this bad and late for people to realise what is happening? It has been going on since June. But why wasn’t it reported on in June? Why only now does it get the attention of the international community? It’s so frustrating. Is it because it’s Pakistan and not Europe? We have just been disappointed again and again.