Thinking global, living local: Voices in a globalized world

Pakistani Government turning a blind eye to their weather updates.

Written by on . Published in Democracy's green challenge

People hardly consider climate as a problem; too much rain or very hot summers are just a natural phenomenon for them. What they’re really concerned about is the high cost of the electrical bills or the poor job done by the municipal department in keeping the drains working. Government is then all about playing its cards right to get reelected, and when it comes to developing nations like Pakistan, government only works to find a stop-gap solution to problems in an effort to buy votes and authority.

Pakistan was hit by the worst floods in its history in July and September 2010. Thousands of farms drowned, houses collapsed in the turbulent waters, fish farms were destroyed and about two thousand lives were lost along with much of Pakistan’s agricultural exports. About twenty million people were displaced from their houses and lands until the areas were rebuilt and reestablished. Every village along the Indus was flooded; the catastrophe took the entire nation by surprise from the north to the south of the country. Climate problems have been overlooked by the whole world.

Global warming is the accumulation of greenhouse gases emitted by the burning of fossil fuels that gives rise to many problems ranging from widespread destruction to an outbreak of disease. The Pakistan floods have been rated the greatest human crisis in recent times by the United Nations, but flooding is not limited to Pakistan alone: the recent rise in the earth’s temperature has resulted in large-scale flooding from China and Russia to Europe.

Pakistan has a network of rivers that join together at Panjnad in the Punjab to form the mighty Indus river. This river network depends on water from the melting glaciers in the Himalayas located in the north of the country and on rain water. The government has never paid much attention to global warming and drastic climatic changes occurring in the world. In a poor third world country like Pakistan, the masses are so engaged in feeding their families that they forget how only a very slight rise in the global temperature can have a disastrous outcome that can upset an entire country.

The government, which is solely made of political parties run by a handful of old faces, paves the road to prosperity with great promises and much enthusiasm in their political debates and speeches, but has not even considered climate change as a problem, so far. Departments like the National Disaster Management Authority are set up and millions of rupees are spent from the annual budget on post flood reconstruction yet very little progress is being made. The government needs to make sure that this catastrophe is not repeated again, but very few steps have been taken to build new dams and barrages to control the overflowing rivers. We learn from our past mistakes. However, history is going to repeat itself if we do not take steps right now and to do that we need to speak up. We, the people, need to make sure we are heard by those in power and authority so we can help them take the right steps towards long-term prosperity and sustainability.

Expert analysts comment that if only there had been two more dams built, there would have been no floods and no widespread havoc and destruction in 2010. The government is aware of the facts about increasing world temperature, they know about the melting glaciers, they know that the rivers can easily flood again. So why are they turning a blind eye and a deaf ear to this debate? The answer is simple: the political parties only work to benefit themselves. At heart they have no other interest but to get reelected. Natural disasters are events that help such political parties in Pakistan to make great inspirational speeches to buy the poor man’s vote. And the poor man then survives on hope alone.

‘And we survive on hope alone’

The country director of the United Kingdom charity Oxfam commented in April that the government has not come up with an effective reconstruction strategy and that some areas were still being neglected even after eight months while government officials point to a lack of funds as an excuse. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) stated that the slow rehabilitation process and low lying water around the camps is causing the spread of disease and might also contaminate the drinking water supply leading to a breakout of diseases.

The media has stopped broadcasting stories of how the flooding affected people and wrecked their lives because stories about the havoc created by the hands of man don’t sell anymore. What they should realize is that their ignorance is costing this country its future.

Flood Relief Camp, Charsadda


Jean-Pascal van Ypersele, vice-president of the UN department for monitoring global warming, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), commented that the dramatic weather patterns are consistent with changes in the climate caused by the very hands of those skeptical masses who believe global warming does not exist. According to scientists, as global warming increases, the atmosphere will be able to hold more water which means heavier flooding for places like Pakistan. Yet even in the face of such warnings and the observable increase in global warming, little has been done to prevent future floods.

However, there is still hope. Several organizations like the Pakistan Youth Climate and Pakistan’s Sustainability Networks are playing an important role in raising awareness amongst the masses. They are conducting workshops, running projects and rebuilding Pakistan with commitment and volunteerism. People believe in hope and we, the youth, have to give them hope. We are the future leaders and it is high time we have ourselves heard.

I have personally worked for the welfare of flood victims by collecting donations with various organizations like the YES Alumni Pakistan  – by collecting clothes, food, and money and personally delivering them to camps in Charsadda and the north western province of Pakistan. We, the people, hold the power, we, the people, can bring about change We control ourselves, and we control our future.

Educational and interactive workshops for the victims of the 2010 flood in Pakistan.

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Muhammad Bilal Khalid Twitter: BilalKhalidi

Muhammad Bilal Khalid is from Lahore, Pakistan. He is currently working as a volunteer and youth activist at various organisations including YES Alumni Pakistan and DFID empowering the nation and the youth of Pakistan through different projects and opportunities. Muhammad Bilal has been actively participating in climate workshops. He also has been a Student Ambassador to England and the United States on two exchange programs representing the culture and norms of the Pakistani Society and exchanging ideas to bring about a better change in Pakistan. Bilal also takes part in Model United Nations to keep up with international events and he keeps on working to empower the youth and help them reach their maximum potential in Pakistan.