India and Pakistan strangled by heat

The thermometer reached 50°C locally in Pakistan. South Asia is again facing abnormally high temperatures this Friday. Authorities warn of the risk of water shortages and the threat to health.

Large swaths of these two countries have been experiencing a record heat wave since late April, which the United Nations World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has deemed to be “consistent” with climate change. Temperatures soared to 50°C in Jacobabad, in Pakistan’s southern province of Sindh, on Friday, the Pakistan Meteorological Service (PMD) said, adding that it could remain so until the end of the week.

From winter to summer without spring

“It’s like a fire burning all around,” said Shafi Mohammad, a farm worker from a village near Jacobabad, where people struggle to find drinking water.

Nationally, temperatures are between 6 and 9° “above normal. [saisonnière]“, underlined the PMD, the thermometer displaying Friday around 40° in the capital Islamabad and the other major cities of Karachi (south), Lahore (east) and Peshawar (north-west). “This year, we went directly from winter to summer,” said PMD chief forecaster Zaheer Ahmad Babar.

More and more heat waves

Pakistan, he said, has been hit since 2015 by rising temperatures, particularly in the provinces of Sindh and Punjab (center). “The intensity, duration and frequency [de ces épisodes caniculaires] increase,” he told AFP.

The situation is expected to worsen further in coming years in South Asia due to global warming, scientists have warned. The flow of the Indus has been reduced by 65% ​​this year “due to lack of rain and snow”, according to the spokesman for the department of irrigation in Punjab, Adnan Hassan.

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Sheep died of dehydration

Taking its source in Tibet, this river crosses India then Pakistan before flowing into the Arabian Sea. Its basin provides 90% of Pakistan’s water supply, according to the UN. The Pakistani press reported that sheep had died of sunstroke and dehydration in the Cholistan desert in Punjab, the most populous province and the breadbasket of Pakistan.

“There is a real risk of shortage of food and harvests this year in the country, if this lack of water should persist”, underlined Adnan Hassan. The heat wave also hit neighboring India, with temperatures reaching 48.1°C on Thursday in the Barmer district of Rajasthan province. They could rise to 46° from Sunday in New Delhi.

Pakistan, one of the countries most threatened by global warming

Very high temperatures are also announced for the weekend in most of northwestern India, before an expected improvement with the arrival of the monsoon. On Tuesday, Pakistan’s Climate Change Minister Sherry Rehman called on Lahore residents to stay in the shade “during the hottest hours of the day”.

A woman refreshes her son in a canal in Pakistan on May 8, 2022.
A woman refreshes her son in a canal, Pakistan, May 8, 2022. – Rana Sajid Hussain/Pacific Press/SIPA

Pakistan, which has 220 million inhabitants, says it is only responsible for 1% of global greenhouse gas emissions. However, it is in 8th position among the countries most threatened by extreme weather phenomena, according to a study by the NGO Germanwatch.

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