Saturday, June 27, 2015

Heat wave claims hundreds of lives in Pakistan ...

Pakistan has come under an intense heat wave that has so far claimed 1000 lives. Compounding the impact of this weather condition is the fact that it coincides with the Islamic month of Ramadan during which the Muslim faithfuls are under obligation to stay away from food and drink from sunrise to sunset. Most of the victims of this spike in temperature have died of heat stroke, dehydration and other related illnesses. As always in such disaster situations, the elderly and the poor are the most affected groups. As a result of this unfortunate development, hospital mortuaries in the worst hit areas are said to be overflowing with dead bodies as staff and other facilities are already stretched to their limits.

As if in a conspiracy, there have been widespread power outages in the affected provinces, especially in Karachi, which means that people who had hoped to get some respite indoors with their air conditioning systems are denied this relief as they have remained without electricity for as much as 12 hours.

Unfortunately, the electricity supply company is busy manufacturing excuses claiming that demand was unanticipated. And we are persuaded to ask, what happened to planning? Sadly, the power outage has also affected water supply. In the meantime, the disaster management agency in that country have been able to set up what it calls heatstroke centres to try to manage the crisis as best it can with the military and other para-military agencies deployed to help.

In our opinion, it is not difficult to imagine the effect of this on the ordinary people who, in their deeply religious attachments, may even consider it a sin to accept and consume the mineral water provided by the relief agencies. That is understandable. We are aware that natural disasters, by their very nature, are unpredictable. However, with modern weather equipment, this unpredictability has been minimised. It is on the basis of this that we urge the Pakistani authorities to put in place measures that will ameliorate the impact of this disaster if and when it happens again. One of such measures is to beef up its public power supply so that there will not be more excuses next time.

We note also that some states in the United States of America (USA), especially California, has been going through a period of drought resulting in acute water shortages and, in other instances, wild fires. This, in our view, raises the issue of climate change that has so far received only a passing glance from the developed countries of the world whose industrial and other economic activities are responsible for the global warming that created the kind of disaster being recorded in Pakistan. The Catholic Pontiff, Pope Francis, in a recent encyclical, called attention to this phenomenon. It is our hope that the world will respond positively to his entreaties and avert the kind of wastage of human life as reported in Pakistan.


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