The previous several days have seen Cyclone Biparjoy, which is Urdu for “cyclone disaster,” make national headlines in Pakistan. This is understandable given that Cyclone Biparjoy earlier moved in a way that would have covered a wider portion of Pakistan’s coastal regions than what is presently predicted. On Wednesday, the cyclone veered further to the northeastern towards India. However, that does not imply that its atmospheric effects won’t be felt in our coastal regions. Some of the things to expect in Pakistan as Cyclone Biparjoy makes ashore today between Keti Bandar in Sindh and Kutch in Indian Gujarat include widespread wind-dust-thunderstorm rain and squally winds.
Some of the less “natural” effects might include a rise in load shedding and, occasionally, power outages in the event of urban flooding. Energy Minister Khurram Dastgir Khan had tweeted about a “temporary decrease in RLNG-based electricity generation and temporary increase in load-shedding,” clarifying that this was due to the cyclone disrupting RLNG shipping. Climate Change Minister Sherry Rehman was eager to emphasize that there was still absolutely no need to be complacent as the cyclone moved east on Wednesday, cautioning people against what she dubbed “disaster tourism.”
In fact, this is hardly a “moment” to post on social media. In Pakistan, more than 60,000 people have been evacuated, or around 80% of the population in the most susceptible coastal areas. In India, where Cyclone Biparjoy would unavoidably have a stronger, fiercer impact, the figure is inevitably higher. The India Meteorological Department (IMD) has issued weather alerts in a number of states, and the Indian government has declared an emergency in Gujarat, which might be hit by one of the strongest cyclones ever recorded.
As vulnerable people in Pakistan are relocated out of harm’s way, Karachi prepares for urban flooding brought on by severe rainfall. Even that is sufficient for locations like DHA to issue voluntary evacuation orders for some of its residents, given Karachi’s lack of planning and its reclamation of land from the sea. Evacuations are a must for Pakistan’s Keti Bandar region because it will likely see the worst effects of the hurricane on our side over the border.
The way Minister Sherry Rehman opted to emphasize the cyclone’s connection to climate change—designating Pakistan as “a hotspot of climate change”—is more significant. Complex dangers brought on by climate change confront us. River systems have been polluted with carbon soot from glacier melt, and there are concerns about water resources in general, food production, food security, and exhaustion in an already exhausted and underperforming energy sector. The fact that the industrialized, wealthy nations of the world have continued to – and are continuing to – increase carbon emissions that cause nations like Pakistan to experience the wrath of climate change is added to this, and the result is a situation that should be treated as an emergency.
Governments that are uninterested need to remain under constant pressure. There must be an ongoing effort to persuade the wealthier countries to make restitution for their past actions and to cease harming the environment, much like COP27 and the skillful discussions managed by our environment minister there. The ‘natural’ calamities like Cyclone Biparjoy and others offer a window into a very bleak future. Even if we are fortunate once or twice, it doesn’t guarantee that we will always be protected. Rising sea levels and warmer oceans will cause a rise in cyclone activity, conflict over limited resources, galloping desertification, growing saltwater; the major dams becoming more silted, and a decline in forest cover.