The climatic concerns facing Pakistan have been pushed to the background by the country’s perpetual political crises.

The government and the people of Pakistan are taking their attention away from the crucial subject of climate adaption due to the current political upheaval. The impact of the August floods in Pakistan, which affected approximately eight million people, is one of the most pressing problems that has received little attention. The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre said that the floods were the greatest catastrophe displacement occurrence in the globe in the previous decade.

The nation has experienced violent face-offs and heavy-handed official intervention since April 2022, when former Pakistani prime leader Imran Khan lost a no-confidence vote. The lack of openness about rehabilitation activities is perhaps the clearest manifestation of the change in focus, since formal periodic reports on the status of flood-affected persons ceased in November 2022.

People harmed by floods are ignored

Pakistan has estimated that it would require $816 million to implement its Floods Response Plan and begin rebuilding. Only 67.7 percent of the plan has been paid for as of July 2023. The government has a hard time meeting the demands of all the specified sectors without the necessary money. Because of this, many people in flood-affected regions have seen a “alarming surge” in food insecurity.

In a joint 2023 outlook assessment, the Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Food Programme identified Pakistan as a nation of “very high concern” for food insecurity due to the “high number of people facing critical, acute food insecurity.” Diseases spread by stagnant water put the lives of millions of youngsters at danger in flood-affected communities. Acute malnutrition affects a large number of people.

The future holds dangers from both extreme heat and other climate-related issues. However, military dictatorship is stifling all kinds of dissent, including nonviolent protest and free expression, instead of sounding warning bells and taking quick action. Pakistan’s internal power struggle is causing disruptions in government and leading to a shift in priorities.

Khan’s former administration prioritized climate change, including projects like a nationwide tree-planting campaign that began in Khan’s native region of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. Infrastructure development is a priority for the present administration, although progress has been slow on both fronts thus far.

Fiscal calamity

Military expenditure is increased by 16% in the incoming government’s fiscal budget for 2023-’24. Meanwhile, the funding for the department that deals with climate change has been cut by 58% from the previous year. The National Disaster Management Authority was given more resources to respond to floods last year. That was taken out of the budget this time around.

Since the floods of 2022, the Disaster Management Authority has recognized a number of major restrictions; nonetheless, it has not received an increase in its yearly financing. Some of these obstacles include a deficiency of heavy-duty earthmovers, risk and hazard assessments, disaster management specialists, and extensive flood telemetry systems. As they are all essential for detecting the beginnings of natural catastrophes and acting quickly, Pakistan will remain at risk.

The budget cutbacks coincide with the end of various climate solutions based on the natural environment that were promoted by the previous administration. In this fiscal year, for instance, the 10 Billion Tree Tsunami afforestation initiative finished on June 30th and did not carry over. In other news, the UN Development scheme and the World Bank’s flood risk mitigation scheme, the Glacial Lake Outburst Flood project, will conclude this year with no signs of renewal.

There’s still a chance, but not much.

The news isn’t always bad. From 2018, more money is being allocated to climate-related sectors including water, sanitation, and hygiene, as detailed in Pakistan’s Economic Survey 2022-’23. The survey’s publication coincided with cabinet adoption of the Climate Adaptation Plan, which had been in the works since July.

An MOU on water conservation, drought relief, and other sustainable development issues was agreed between Pakistan and China in June. This is expected to boost Pakistan’s flagship Living Indus Initiative, which serves the most significant river basin in the nation.

However, political parties in Pakistan need to figure out how to work together on national issues if the country is to reap the full benefits of such programs. The COP28 conference is less than a year away. Before this can happen, it is crucial for the leadership of Pakistan, across political parties, to show how they are safeguarding vulnerable populations, such as those displaced by recent floods.

Pakistan has a right to ask the wealthy nations that chose a damaging route to growth for climate reparations, but only when political opponents have learned to deal with internal concerns peacefully and reliably.