Did climate change kill 1200 people in Karachi heat wave?

It’s a mystery. Most probably it will remain a mystery that who was mainly responsible of the death of 1200 people in Karachi due to intense heat.

How lucky is my neighbor who just termed the recent heat wave in Karachi a divine curse and asked people to mend their way of life to win the divine blessings instead. Yes, he is so lucky that his religious belief gives him definite answer of this mysterious query.

Before 18 June 2015 weather was normal in Karachi the biggest city of Pakistan and the seventh biggest city of the world.

Just one week before that I attended a conference on climate change in this city where experts loudly declared that Pakistan contributes less than one percent in global climate change but is among the top most vulnerable countries to this menace.

Who knew (including me) then that just one week later they would be watching an impact of its being among the ten most vulnerable countries to climate change?

Climate change is an abnormal weather trend that occurs because of more carbon emissions from the Earth to its environment. It’s a global menace and it impacts the whole world.

Karachi heat wave

A woman applying cold water as an immediate relief from heat stroke

Interestingly those who contribute more in climate change remain safe from its effects. Obviously they should because they have a lot of precautionary measures and emergency response system. They are usually advance countries which use energy more by burning fossil fuel to run their machines and vehicles and eventually contribute a huge amount of carbon emissions into the environment. That ultimately leads to climate change and people in poor regions have to suffer mostly from it.

Being less developed nations most of the poor countries rely on agriculture economy because they don’t have much advance technology to industrialize their economy beyond a limit. That is why they use energy lesser and burn fossil fuel in lesser amount and as a result contribute lesser in carbon emissions to our environment. But being lesser in technological advancement they have no stronger shield to stay safe from the effects of climate change.

Karachi heat wave the key effect of climate change

The biggest effect of climate change is abnormal weather trend which we observed in Karachi from 19 June 2015 to 23 June 2015 when city temperature shot up to 46 centigrade from its normal level of 38 degree centigrade as compare to previous year. Unofficial reports say the temperature also went to the level of 50 degree centigrade during these four days and this level was at 40 years high.

Usually climate change occurs because of the two sources. One is nature-made source that means the climate of the Earth changes after thousands of years because of changes in entire eco system of the world.

The second one is man-made source that is high amount of carbon emissions as a result of more and more factory and vehicular emissions by the whole world into our environment. That causes frequent changes in global climate change.

We can see a rise in the Earth’s average temperature from 15.5 °C (59.9 °F) to 16.2 °C (61.2 °F) over the last 100 years due to which we are experiencing such extreme weather conditions both in summers and winters.

So the intense Karachi heat wave was the outcome of the climate change and experts earlier had warned the government here to take precautionary measures to make people face such sizzling heat. But being a poor country its government does not have such quick response system to take the precautionary measures in such a short time. So the result was nearly 1200 deaths during these four days owing to heat stroke and dehydration.

Climate change not the only reason

But it is not just to blame the climate change as the main reason of this huge death toll. It may be the main reason of the intense heat in the city but not the key reason of this many deaths in huge number. There are many reasons that took the death toll to that much alarming level. A few of them are:

Lack of good governance

This is one of the main reasons of such big death toll. There is a federal and provincial government where this city is situated but all its governments were damn busy in resolving others issues of more urgent nature.

Karachi heat waveThis city was facing acute water shortage for the last six months and it was earlier predicted that the next riot in the city will be on water share. It has the bleak history of poor law and order conditions during previous three decades and there are no any big signs of improvement in it.

So government instead of diverting its attention to take measures for combating the Karachi heat wave remained engaged in resolving the civic problems of urgent nature and people didn’t have any relief but to succumb to the lashes of heat stroke and dehydration.

Power crisis

Pakistan has been facing severe type of power crisis for the last one decade. It has yet to start any major project of renewable energy. All its power projects are mostly in pipeline.

On the other hand population has shot up during past two decades while supply situation in energy sector is same as it was twenty years ago. As a result there is a big gap between demand and supply. Because of lack of devoted leadership people of this country don’t have any special measures by the government to fill this gap.

The only solution government is applying is load shedding that is rationing of electricity on a few hourly basis. Most of the cities face eight to twelve hours announced power breakdown.

So those who suffered from heat stroke had neither water nor electricity to get relief on personal basis by staying inside home under the ceiling fan at least if they don’t have air conditioner.

Unawareness

Literacy rate in Karachi is hardly 50 per cent and that literate population is mostly unaware as well. People don’t have basic awareness to face any menace related to health and environment.

At the government level no any fully fledged department works to raise awareness level of people. In a few departments like health and environment there is only one awareness officer to raise awareness level of the whole population of one province.

So being mostly unaware most of the victims of recent Karachi heat wave could not have taken urgent precautionary measures like intake of water, applying of ice on forehead and palms, moving under a shadow from the sun and rushing to a nearby hospital. Most of them even could not have realized the signs of heat stroke and eventually expired.

Most of them were laborers or daily commuters who had to come under direct exposure to sun to do their daily wages or menial jobs.

No proper treatment

Lack of good governance is widespread in every sector of Pakistan. Be it health, environment, education or law and order department; nothing is going on properly. So lack of treatment facilities was also one of the reasons of big death toll in recent heat wave in Karachi.

There were medical centers near to people who suffered from heat stroke but these centers do not have advance treatment facilities and trained staff. As a result death toll reached to that much higher level.

No clear religious guidance

Karachi experienced that intense heat wave during the month of Ramadan when Muslims observe fasting.

Karachi heat waveMost of the people who suffered from heat stroke were also with fast but they didn’t have proper guidance if they could break their fast if their health condition goes at such alarming level. As a result most of the victims avoided breaking their fast till their conditions worsened and eventually they died.

No sincere leadership

People kept dying during those four days of intense heat in Karachi and rulers kept passing the buck on each other. Provincial government termed the federal government as mainly responsible for the heat disaster in Karachi while federal government declared it was the duty of provincial government to properly treat the victims of heat stroke.

As a result people lost their hopes for any rescue and helped each other for relief but it was not sufficient to combat the whole situation.

Corruption, mother of all evils

Yes, corruption is the mother of all reasons of huge death toll of Karachi heat disaster. If treatment facilities were not there its main reason is corruption. Funds are approved for treatment facilities every year in Pakistan but most of the funds are eaten away by the top managers of each department.

If there was power crisis in the city and country, its main reason is also corruption. Funds are approved every year to combat the power shortage in the country but energy managers are neither efficient nor honest to use these funds to mitigate the power crisis.

In short main reason of every malady in this Islamic country of South Asia and the only atomic power of Islamic world is greed of its both political leaders and administrative managers sitting at all levels and everyone is openly and unabashedly filling his own pockets from the government kitty instead of serving the people.

So, this much huge death toll due to intense heat which otherwise can easily be faced is more than obvious.

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