- Friday | 12 Oct, 2018
- Shafqat Munir Ahmed
- Policy Briefs/Papers
Pakistan and India are equally vulnerable to disasters as the two countries have similar geography, climate, and environmental attributes. Both the countries bear losses due to cross-border hydro-climatic disasters and seismic activities. The conflict between Pakistan and India restricts the movement of people, goods and transport across borders. However, climatic hazards and disaster risks exist beyond borders and equally harm both of them. Pakistan is most vulnerable to flash floods and earthquakes while same is the case with India in terms of earthquakes, tsunamis, floods, droughts and cyclones (as it has a large coastline).
In South Asia, heavy monsoon rains and floods played havoc in recent years and the increased intensity of disasters is adversely affecting the region thus undoing the development gains in terms of reducing poverty and hunger. During 1990 -2008, over 750 million people were affected. Among them 230,000 had died and a loss of US$45 billion was incurred; both Pakistan and India have to share major losses (World Bank 2009). Tsunami (2004), earthquake (2005), and droughts, cyclones and floods during the period caused havoc with the lives and livelihood of millions of people in both countries.
According to the United Nations global assessment report on disaster risk 2015, India was incurred an estimated average annual economic loss of $9.8 billion due to disasters (Thakur 2015). Another study by Swiss Re, a leading global reinsurer, indicates that India’s total economic losses from all disasters, including natural and man-made events, stood at around $6.2 billion, i.e. or 6.8 per cent of worldwide losses in 2015, down from $13.4 billion, i.e. 11.9 per cent of global losses in 2014 (In 2015, economic losses 2016). This improvement is seen due to better disaster management and preparedness and use of technology by India.
In 2015, a World Bank report published in collaboration with Pakistan’s National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) highlighted that the average annual economic impact of floods on Pakistan’s economy ranged between $1.2 and $1.8 billion, which is equivalent to between 0.5 and 0.8% of the national gross domestic product (APP 2015). The 2010 flood-related economic losses are reported to be US $10 billion. In Pakistan, a predominant majority of people affected by natural disasters was impacted due to repeated flood events.
The problem is that populations in Pakistan and India are largely impacted by floods which is primarily linked to the cross-border hydro resources management. The lack of trust and political animosity distance them to talk on key issues of common interest such as climatic impacts and resultant disasters. Disasters and hydro hazards are apolitical areas on which both the countries have to work together to save the lives of their people as well as resources. Unfortunately, hardliners on both sides are a big hurdle due to which no concrete steps could be taken despite the fact that a vibrant early flood warning and forecasting system is fully functional and a globally designed 24-hour response mechanism is ready to reach the disaster-hit communities.