Jacobabad in Sindh is one of the hottest places on the planet. So hot, in fact, that its record high temperatures have drawn international media attention. The Telegraph recently published an article reporting that Jacobabad is one of only two places on earth to have officially passed a temperature threshold hotter than the human body can handle. The other city is Ras al Khaimah in the United Arab Emirates, the story continues, citing research conducted at Loughborough University.
Earlier, a 2019 Time magazine article said Jacobabad may soon be ‘uninhabitable’. “Summer in Sindh province is no joke,” the article says. “People are dying.”
But in Pakistan, the issue receives only seasonal attention. While records are breaking records year on year, little is being done to address the impact of climate change in the region.
According to Pakistan’s Meteorological Department (PMD), on May 28, the mercury sizzled at 50 degrees Celsius, making it the highest temperature recorded so far this year. Things were even worse last year in June when temperatures hit 51 degrees Celsius, shares Nadeem Faisal, one of the directors of PMD. Mercury also jumped to 51 degrees Celsius in 2019.
According to data shared by the PMD official, heat waves typically start in early March and continue through September. As another ruthless summer draws to a close, the people of Jacobabad will soon enjoy temporary relief. But the government needs to invest in long-term solutions to address these issues, which are sure to come back next year.
BEAT THE HEAT
During peak summers, when Jacobabad sizzles, most residents treat him as usual. They rely on remedies such as consuming traditional drinks including thaadal (almond sorbet), lemonade, cane juice, and lassi. Others, with the means and family from other parts of the country, temporarily move away from Jacobabad when the temperatures become unbearable. “A lot of people move to Karachi, Quetta and Jamshoro in the summer to fight the heat,” Imran Odho, former chairman of the Jacobabad district council, told Eos.
Others simply avoid going out during the day. “Jacobabad’s geographic location and dry conditions contribute to the high temperatures,” says Dr Qamaruz Zaman Chaudhry, climate change expert and lead author of Pakistan’s Climate Change Policy, published in 2012. “But, interestingly, a Adaptation to climate change is seen here as people start work early, avoid the midday sun and go back outside in the afternoon.
Jacobabad’s record summers have made it one of the hottest places on the planet, attracting international media coverage and concern. Are those at home paying attention?
But staying indoors is not an option for everyone. Jacobabad is a rice growing area and rice is grown in the height of summer. Rice seedlings are grown in nurseries in early May and transplanted from nurseries to fields around June or early July, keeping farm workers busy during the hottest time of the year.
Sahib Khatoon, an elderly farm worker, cannot afford to take shelter from the sun in shady areas for very long. “We start early and try to finish the job before 11 am,” she said, adding that the workers take a lunch break to eat and rest before returning to the fields in the late afternoon. “This is how we escape the hottest part of the day.”
“From July, when the rice harvest begins to ripen, the atmosphere becomes so hot that it is suffocating and difficult to breathe,” says Azhar Sarki, journalist.
Like Khatoon, Janib Ali, a naanbai (baker) and his co-worker manage their working hours to cope with the heat. “It’s unbearable working in the tandoor for seven to eight hours straight,” says Ali, as he adjusts a pedestal fan to get more air. It’s only 10am and he already looks exhausted from the heat. “My colleague and I work three hour shifts so that one can rest while the other works. “
Dr Chaudhry, who recently updated the climate change policy which is now awaiting government approval, says higher temperatures worsen with high humidity, but Jacobabad is recording high temperatures with high humidity. low humidity. “Its inhabitants are used to dry weather and higher temperatures that have no or low humidity,” he says. “Unlike Karachi, where in the heatwave of 2015, the temperature was a few degrees cooler than in Jacobabad, but many people died. [because of the heat and humidity],” he adds.
DECREASE THE IMPACT
The problems facing the region remain the same. As the demand for water increases during heatwaves and summer, the filtration plant here often stops working for one reason or another. “We need an uninterrupted power supply for six hours at the factory to ensure the water supply to the city’s main line,” says Imdad Ali, a worker at the factory. “Even though the factory has a dedicated independent power supply, some influential people have started to steal electricity from that power supply, causing overloads and blackouts that lead to an interruption in the water supply. “
To meet demand, jerry cans of water – from private storage fed by groundwater wells – are delivered on donkey-drawn carts to consumers.
Abdul Ghaffar, an entrepreneur, has invested money in a deep drilling project for water extraction off Garhi Khero Road. “The groundwater is soft here but brackish in other parts of Jacobabad,” he says. Ghaffar, who has spent around 20 to 30,000 rupees against each drilling, is confident that he will quickly recoup his investment.
Problems such as inconsistent water and electricity supply are concerns that remain relevant year round and across the country. But during Jacobabad’s scorching summers, the impact of these problems is exacerbated.
Another problem that arises summer after summer is that of heat stroke sufferers in Sindh.
But Dr Irshad Memon, director general of health services, Sindh, shares that no heat stroke-related deaths have been reported in Jacobabad in the past three years. “Heat stroke is a loose term,” he says. “Usually people don’t discuss the underlying causes of the disease, but say the death is due to heat stroke. “
Indeed, there are no data available on heat stroke deaths. But according to a doctor, wishing to remain anonymous, the district health management information system does not have a column for heat stroke, so no dedicated data is collected.
Dr Bikha Ram of Liaquat University of Medical and Health Sciences, Jamshoro, also does not rule out the underdiagnosis of heat stroke cases. “No specific test is done for heatstroke cases,” he says. “An electrolyte test is necessary, but when patients come in with a high fever, they are only tested for malaria and typhoid.”
THE PATH TO FOLLOW
The impacts of climate change are being felt around the world and plans are being made to deal with the ongoing crisis. Pakistan must also find ways to improve its preparedness.
Pakistan has ratified the Paris Agreement 2015. Dr Imran Khan, Director of Governance and Policy at WWF-Pakistan, points out that the “developed” world had pledged in the Paris Agreement to contribute 100 billion dollars. dollars per year for developing countries vulnerable to climate change, by 2020. “This financial assistance has not yet materialized. he said, adding that the government must remind the “developed” world of its commitment at the next United Nations Conference of the Parties on climate change (COP-26), scheduled for later this year.
Obtaining funds is part of the equation. The others are planning and implementation. The new climate change policy, pending approval, is a welcome step in this direction. We need to act quickly to ensure that regions such as Jacobabad are up to the challenge.
The writer is a staff reporter and can be contacted at Hussain.[email protected]
Posted in Dawn, EOS, September 19, 2021