The extreme weather conditions in recent days in Pakistan have led to the deaths of 98 people so far, with 69 casualties in Azad Jammu and Kashmir alone. This unavoidable tragedy can be chalked down to the temperature gauges slipping a little lower than usual around this time of year, and as with the bushfires in Australia, the results of such incremental change are proving to be catastrophic.
In the past, large-scale natural disasters like floods and earthquakes posed a significant danger to life and property. But now, even routine weather events such as rain or snowfall in the winter have become threatening to the lives of inhabitants, particularly in areas which see harsher weather conditions at some point in the year. Quite obviously, northern areas in Pakistan will see seismic changes in the coming years and suffer from the effect of episodes of glacial melts, avalanches, blizzards and many other potentially hazardous types of natural disasters.
The government has begun relief efforts and the Prime Minister visited AJK on Wednesday to condole with the families of victims, but there is little more the state can do on this occasion, at least immediately. There is nothing to prevent the avalanches that continue to wreak havoc in AJK. The National Disaster Management Authority undoubtedly has its hands full at the moment; but the state must ensure that all supplies set aside for relief efforts are distributed effectively and efficiently, targeting those who need it the most.
In the long run, using scientific data, adjustments must be made to vulnerable areas if they are to remain fit for human habitation. Improving infrastructure to counteract further disasters must also be prioritised. Although not perfect, there are certain preventative measures that can be put into place for natural occurrences such as avalanches in areas which are adversely affected. Across the world, using large stone embankments at strategic locations on top of mountains help, as do small, controlled avalanches, triggered by humans themselves in order to avoid too much build-up of snow.
The government and climate experts are fighting an uphill battle against nature, one that is time-intensive and requires out-of-the-box solutions to counter the many natural calamities that will soon regularly take place because of the rapidly degrading environment and climate change. Being proactive, agile and quick to react is the only way we can hopefully avoid the many threats that we created and face as a species.