Flooding in Pakistan: Mother Nature Knows No Mercy

Pakistan is experiencing severe flood damage. The record monsoon rains, along with melting glaciers, have affected 33 million people. The death toll is estimated at 1,314 of which 458 are children. The silted-up Manchar Lake has overflown and submerged surrounding villages. Nationally, 80 districts have declared calamity hit, with deep floods and severe damage to transport infrastructure.

Extreme climate events are exacerbating the flood/ drought syndrome. Floods are also caused by the denuded hillslopes of the lower Himalayas (Shivalik Hills). Since the 1950s, lower Himalayas have been denuded by deforestation to meet the demands of the rapidly growing population. The drought-flood tragedy, affecting five countries of South Asia (Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Nepal, Bangladesh) is triggered by deforestation and land-use change but exacerbated and multiplied by the climate change.

The emergency aid from international organizations helped 33 million affected by the tragedy of the lower Himalayas through a coordinated effort involving five countries. There should be well-defined plan to accomplish afforestation between 2023 and 2030. International organizations should allocate $1B/ country every year for the next 8 years provided that each country commits a match from their national resources.

Afforestation, along with development of flood control structures, should bring an end to the flood-drought problem forever. This will also put the South Asian region on track to accomplish the Sustainable Development Goals of the U.N. including 1) no poverty, 2) zero hunger, 3) good health and wellbeing, 6) clean water and sanitation, 13) climate action, 15) life on land, 16) peace, justice, and strong institutions, and 17) partnerships for the goals.

There is a strong need of cooperation and partnership among all five countries of South Asia to collectively address this serious issue. Cooperation is also essential to advance SDGs of the U.N. and promote peace and harmony.


Rattan Lal

Distinguished University Professor of Soil Science Director, CFAES Rattan Lal Center for Carbon Management and Sequestration