Large tracts of Pakistan are under water due to unprecedented floods in Balochistan, Sindh and Khyber-Pakhtoonkhwa provides. More than three million people in the country’s 100 districts across four provinces have been hit by the floods, with Balochistan’s capital Quetta isolated from the rest of the country as many highways and bridges have been swept away by the deluge. The flood damage to Pakistann’s tatterig economy is estimated to to be at least $4 billion but is expected to increase.
The deadly floods have brought back the memory of the devastating 2010 floods, which had marooned more than 25% of Pakistan and had left 1800 people dead and left a damage of more than 11 billion dollars to the economy.
Two of the worst-hit provinces – Balochistan and Sindh – have received 298mm and 689mm rains respectively this year, which is about 400 percent more than the 30-year average.
The government has declared the disastrous floods a “national emergency”. At least 937 people have died since mid-June, including 343 children, according to the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), with large swaths of the southwestern province of Balochistan remaining submerged.
More than half of the casualties are from Balochistan and southern Sindh province where 234 and 306 people died respectively amid record rains that have affected half a million houses across the country.
In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, where nearly 200 people have been killed, rescue efforts were in full swing, particularly in the worst-hit areas of Swat and Dir.
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has appealed for funds from friendly countries and international institutions amid the worst flooding in decades. “The ongoing rain spell has caused devastation across the country. The losses, though yet to be documented, are comparable to flash floods of 2010,” Sharif tweeted, referring to the deadly 2010 floods.
His appeal initially received a lukewarm response from friendly Muslim countries with the Qatar Red Crescent Society (QRCS) announcing a ridiculous $100,000 in relief to the flood victims. Sharif just finished a visit to Qatar at a time when the country was enduring disastrous flooding. Interstingly enough Qatar Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani allocated $5m for the relief of victims of flood caused by recent rains and monsoon in the India state of Kerala on August 19.
According to the NDMA forecast, parts of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa might face “very high to an exceptionally high level of flooding” in the next few days. Balochistan also faces the threat of more flash flooding.
“Pakistan is going through its 8th cycle of monsoon; normally the country has only three to four cycles of [monsoon] rain,” federal minister for climate change, Sherry Rehman told a news conference in Islamabad.
“Pakistan is under an unprecedented monsoon spell and data suggests the possibility of re-emergence of another cycle in September,” she said.
Ali Tauqeer Sheikh, an Islamabad-based independent expert on climate change, told Al Jazeera that the earlier floods were riverine in nature, but lack of development planning and climate change were causing the recent flood-related crisis in the country.
“In 2010, the floods were riverine in nature, which means they mostly impacted areas around the Indus River and they were mostly predictable. This time, there are multiple types such as urban flood, flash flooding and floods caused by glacier burst,” he told Al Jazeera by telephone.
$4b Flood Damage to the Economy
The unusual heavy monsoon rains and flash floods are initially estimated to cost Pakistan’s economy over $4 billion in the current fiscal year as the calamity has badly hurt agricultural activities in Sindh and Balochistan, The Express Tribune newspaper reported. While it is early to assess the actual impact, Pakistan, where agriculture has a 23% share in gross domestic product (GDP), can remain highly vulnerable in the aftermath of the floods.
Repercussions may include higher imports, compromise on exports and rising inflation, which will undermine efforts of the government to tackle the macro headwinds. “Based on our preliminary estimates, the current account deficit may increase by $4.4 billion (1% of GDP) – assuming no counter-measures are taken, while around 30% of the CPI (Consumer Price Index) basket is exposed to the threat of higher prices,” said JS Global Research in a report on Friday.
“The situation may force the government to make additional import of cotton worth $2.6 billion, wheat worth $900 million and the country will lose textile exports of around $1 billion,” the report added. This comes to around $4.5 billion (1.08% of GDP) in current fiscal year 2022-23. Owing to the flash floods, the consumers are expected to face supply deficit of household groceries such as onion, tomato and chilli.
The worst affected crop is cotton. Farmers produced 8 million bales in the previous fiscal year, but now they will again have a poor crop, like previous years, amid heavy rainfall in Sindh. “Cotton sowing has reportedly been destroyed to a large extent (in Sindh), it said. “Assuming the country requires import of cotton to fulfill 80% of demand this year, the import bill will likely exceed $4.4 billion (+144% year-on-year) in FY23.
“On the other hand, any unavailability of imported raw cotton or other unprocessed textile will negatively impact the country’s textile exports,” the research house said. Rice is another crop that is expected to endure massive damage in the ongoing floods. It is among the few crops where the area under cultivation has increased significantly in the recent past (+20% in two years). It contributes $2.5 billion in annual exports. “Damage to rice crops will result in loss of exports, in addition to a slight reduction in GDP growth and higher CPI inflation.”
As water from the flash floods is believed to take two to three months to disappear, the aftermath is likely to result in delay in wheat and edible oil seed sowing. Delay in wheat plantation will be a double blow as many farmers have already switched from wheat to edible oil seed cultivation. Moreover, the post-flood situation is also expected to negatively impact the yield of upcoming wheat crops. With the delay in sowing and higher wheat import prices, the import of 15% of wheat demand of 30 million tons may take its import bill to $1.7 billion in FY23.
Alongside crops, more than 500,000 livestock have reportedly perished in the floods. This will add to the burden on the rural people, already reeling from higher diesel and fertiliser prices, and will lead to the shortage of milk supply. Moreover, the shortage of livestock, coupled with the probability of disease outbreak among the cattle, can also cause the scarcity of meat. Besides, tomato prices have already started increasing due to the monsoon.
This together with wheat, edible oil, milk and meat hold 18% weight in the CPI basket. It poses the risk of high food inflation (at 28%; 13-year high). “Any risk to food security, shortages and bottlenecks in supply chain will cause an increase in our existing FY23 CPI estimate of 21%.” “We expect fertiliser, banks, tractors and oil marketing companies to be among the sectors that will be negatively impacted by the flash floods.