Back in 2015, Karachi was hit by one of the worst heatwaves the country had seen in the last 50 years. The city was clearly not prepared for the rise in temperature and that lead to 1200 people losing their lives, along with 40,000 suffering from heatstroke and heat exhaustion.
Casualty after casualty was being reported in Karachi and so many lives were being lost back in 2015 without any action. Is this lack of action that we’re paying for today, again?
In an interview with Dawn.com, staff nurse Naseem Akhtar at the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre (JPMC) said that she remembers the unending queue of corpses coming to the hospital.
“Death is never easy to experience, but that day, there was a feeling of utter helplessness. After we ran out of stretchers, we had to put the dead on the floor. We asked the Edhi Foundation to take away the corpses, but they said their ambulances were busy bringing in those who were still alive. They didn’t have any more space in the (Edhi) morgue to take the dead and keep them. It was a horrible, horrible, week.”, recalls Daisy Nasreen, the head nurse at JPMC.
While the 2015 heatwave was poorly managed because of lack of understanding of climate change, this time around the authorities claimed to have the situation under control
However the problem this year is that the heatwave coincides with the month of Ramazan. This means that public spaces are strictly monitored to ensure that there is no drinking and eating in public spaces. It is not difficult to discern that it would not be easy for someone to get access to basic necessities during this time. So the three-tier plan which worked well in the last two years and prevented an increase in the casualties would not do so well because the setting of Ramazan has not been catered for.
The city has lost 64 lives due to the extreme weather and this is just the number which is being reported by official sources
There are reports that the government is trying to hide the actual numbers to hide their own inability to deal with the matter at hand. There is no denying that the heatwave aggravates the condition of those who are already suffering from diseases and the elderly as well, however, a significant number of people who lost their lives was only because of heatstroke.
“We have verified that a number of them were patients of other conditions … some of them were genuine cases, but not all of them,” said Ejaz Ahmed, an official at the Karachi commissioner’s office.
If the authorities will try to push facts under the rug, this will prevent them from actually addressing the matter at hand and come up with effective policies in the future. This is clearly a case of lack of awareness in the public, who are just advised to not go outside unless absolutely necessary.
“There is no awareness among people that they must not enter the direct sunlight, and need to keep their skin moist as this is a very dry heat,” Edhi told Al Jazeera by telephone.
Awareness campaigns need to be carried out to address the issue and to help the people understand how they can save themselves from the heat.
Only 7 percent of the urban area constitutes of green patches
This means that heat gets trapped due to the glass buildings, concrete, asphalt roads, steel, and waste. Since the nights are relatively shorter, there is not enough time for the place to cool down. As a result, Karachi has turned into an Urban Heat Island (UHI).
Architect Yasmeen Lari in an interview with Dawn.com said, “Green the monstrosities. These buildings not only store heat but emit it too, making Karachi an insufferable city to live in. One way to lower the city’s temperature is to grow vines and shrubs to cover the facades.”
At the same time, a good idea would be to invest in the public transport system and snub the use of private cars
However what is of utmost importance is the understanding of climate change. If the authorities and the public, together, are not willing to understand the phenomenon and make policies which will help out in the longer run, we will be stuck in a cycle of misreporting and deflection of responsibility, which will, in turn, take more and more lives.
coverimage via waqtnews.tv