UNITED NATIONS: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said on Friday that Pakistan is being severely affected due to the environmental problems and urged the world to come forward with concrete action to help the flood-affected people of Pakistan.
In his speech at the 77th session of UNGA, the prime minister highlighted the massive devastation left behind by the deadly climate-induced floods, and appeal for international help to deal with the catastrophe. He said that floods have wreaked havoc in Pakistan which left 30.3 million people including women and children homeless, while killing more than 1500 people.
“Over 1 million animals have been killed while the floods swept away around 370 bridges,” he said.
The Prime Minister said due to this global challenge, our glaciers are melting fast, our forests are burning, and our heat waves have crossed 53 degree C, making us the hottest place on the planet.
He said during the recent calamity, for 40 days and 40 nights a biblical flood poured down on us, smashing centuries of weather records, challenging everything we knew about disaster, and how to manage it.
The Prime Minister said this calamity has pushed some 11 million people below the poverty line, while others will drift to cramped urban shelters, leaving little room for climate-smart rebuilding.
He said even today, huge swathes of the country are still under-water, submerged in an ocean of human suffering. In this ground zero of climate change, 33 million people, including women and children are now at high risk from health hazards, with 650,000 women giving birth in makeshift tarpaulins.
The Prime Minister said more than 1500 of my people have perished in the great flood, including over 400 children. He said early estimates suggest that more than 13000 kilometres of metaled roads have been damaged, over 370 bridges have been swept away, a million homes have been destroyed and another million damaged.
More than a million farm animals have been killed and four Million acres of crops have been washed away, stripping the people of their breadbasket, and damage of an unimaginable scale.
The Prime Minister said Pakistan has never seen a more stark and devastating example of the impact of Global Warming. He said as the Secretary General Antonio Guterres so candidly said, hotspots like Pakistan fall in the ten most climate-vulnerable list of countries, but emit less than one percent of the greenhouse gasses that are burning our planet. It is therefore, entirely reasonable to expect some approximation of justice for this loss and damage, not to mention building back better with resilience.
The Prime Minister expressed profound gratitude to the UN SG Antonio Guterres for visiting Pakistan and spending time with climate refugees and assuring his support and assistance. He also thanked each and every one of the countries that have sent help, and their representatives to Pakistan to stand in solidarity with us in our most trying hour.
The Prime Minister said for now, we have mobilized all available resources towards the national relief effort, and repurposed all budget priorities including development funds, to the rescue and first-order needs of millions.
Cash transfers to the most affected, 4 million women heads of household, has begun weeks ago via our social security program, the Benazir Income Support Program, amounting to 70 billion rupees. But at this point, the gap between our urgent needs and available resources is amplified by the sheer, unprecedented scale of the disaster.
The Prime Minister said he is fully committed to fighting this battle for our survival, in the tents and trenches with my people, until we have rebuilt Pakistan to face the growing challenges of this century.
He said Pakistan’s urgent priority right now is to ensure rapid economic growth and lift millions out of destitution and hunger. To enable any such policy momentum, Pakistan needs a stable external environment and we look for peace with all our neighbours, including India.
It is pertinent to mention here that heavy rains and subsequent floods have affected 33 million Pakistanis, inflicted billions of dollars in damage, and killed over 1,600 people – creating concern that Pakistan will not meet its debts.