All You Need To Know About Heat Waves In Pakistan: It’s hard to think of summer in Pakistan, without any negative connotation attached to it. This merciless season is made better only with the arrival of fruits such as mangoes and watermelon, and the monsoon rain. However, in the last couple of years, Pakistani summers have grown troublesome for most people because of increased temperatures that seem to be climbing up each year. Experts note that this is caused by heatwaves; a natural phenomenon that occurs due to ‘trapped air’ which heats up to unprecedented levels through sunlight. Heatwaves in Pakistan have become common since the summer of 2015 when more than 2,000 people as well as zoo animals in southern Pakistan died due to heatstroke and dehydration. With heatwaves in Pakistan becoming a seasonal occurrence, this is all you need to know about this phenomenon.
This year, Pakistan’s summer approached slowly, with much of April and May relatively pleasant. However, as soon as June began, the temperatures started to increase exponentially, reaching 47 to 48°C in Central Punjab, and parts of Sindh, whereas in Azad Jammu and Kashmir the temperatures have risen past 34°C. But the temperature keeps increasing.
While the Pakistan Meteorological Department had predicted hot and dry weather in most parts of the country, the heatwave in Pakistan 2021 has taken a serious toll on citizens. Let’s explore all the latest updates to find the most affected areas by the heatwave.
CAUSES OF HEATWAVES
The earth heating up or heatwaves are phenomena of global warming, which humans are battling on every front. This is caused by:
As much as we need a healthy ecosystem and environment to survive, our actions have proved to be dangerous for our ecosystems. Deforestation, pollution of rivers, carbon dioxide emissions in the air have all contributed towards the natural balances. As a result of this, the mechanism behind land and sea breezes have been disturbed and the presence of hydrocarbons in the air creates a natural greenhouse that traps the heat, rather than reflecting it back.
The most adverse effect of this has been due to a drastic decrease in forest cover, throughout the world. These Earth’s lungs help purify the air and regulate temperature, but when forests are cut, primarily for construction activities, there is little that they can do for protecting the environment and human life.
URBAN HEAT JUNGLES
The effect of urban heat jungles is a common feature of towns and cities and occurs as a result of concrete structures. These concrete structures have a tendency to absorb heat. This coupled with heat generated by transport, shops, and industry gets trapped and is unable to escape to the atmosphere, significantly raising the city’s temperatures, as well as its surroundings. This can increase the temperature in urban areas by 3 to 4°C, leading to a vicious cycle of increased demand for energy consumption such as for cooling, etc. This causes higher fossil fuel consumption, leading to the release of pollutants in the air.
These are the main reasons that scientists posit for global warming. Increased temperatures, such as those being experienced in Pakistan currently are a direct result of such human activity. With heatwaves, there are numerous risks involved; primarily related to health and agriculture.
As the demand for housing increases, and so does the need for expanding business activities, catering to increased energy consumption; construction activities also increase. This is something that is closely related to a country’s pace of modernization.
However, the way we construct is not sustainable or environmentally friendly. This is with regards to the construction material we choose, as well as the sites. Turning fertile and agricultural land into sites for industrial complexes is one of the many ways human actions have adversely contributed to environmental degradation.
THREATS POSED BY HEATWAVES
Effects of heatwaves in a country like Pakistan are two-fold; in agriculture and on human health.
Higher temperatures contribute to heat-related deaths and heat-related illnesses such as respiratory difficulties, heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heatstroke. Deaths due to heatstroke have become a serious concern for Pakistani authorities as in 2015 alone, 2,000 people died due to increased temperatures. Most of the deaths occurred in Karachi as the sea breeze completely stopped, and the ‘heat islands’ further exacerbated the problem.
In such a calamity, sensitive populations, such as children, older adults, and those with existing health conditions, are, particularly at risk. It is therefore advised to avoid going out in the sun unnecessarily, avoid exertion, and consume foods that will keep you cool and prevent dehydration.
Increased temperature also causes flooding due to the melting of glaciers, and erratic rain patterns. This is a problem for agricultural produce, which can be uprooted in the process. In addition to this, increased temperatures also soak up the moisture from the earth, rendering agricultural land as infertile.
Increased temperatures can also dry up rivers, the main source of water for agricultural produce. In addition to this, it can also kill crops or rot fresh vegetables and fruits.
Heatwaves are becoming a common feature of the summer season. However, in recent years they have caused widespread devastation.