Last year, one-third of Pakistan was under water, and some of that water is still there in parts of Sindh and Balochistan. The Global Information and Early Warning System (GIEWS) of the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation in its latest report has warned that Pakistan is one of the 20 countries that are at risk of receiving extreme rainfall. El Nino means “Little Boy” in Spanish. This term refers to a warming of the ocean surface, or above average sea surface temperatures, in the central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean. El Nino is said to be on a revisit to these countries. In particular, that “Little Boy” was here in 2015 as part of its cyclic visits, causing a severe heatwave with temperatures as high as 49°C that resulted in the deaths of about 2,000 people mostly in Sindh, including Karachi. So if there is going to be excessive rainfall the temperatures too are likely to soar, and kind of severe heatwave is likely to impact life, which too would make this summer unbearably hot. El Nino is known to have impacted ocean-warming since times unknown. Therefore, the upcoming El Nino must be seen in a context that is independent of climate change and the authorities and the people need to fight it off by putting in place plans to lessen its negative fallout. Therefore, the battle against El Nino and high temperatures has got to be a battle on two fronts – one, to ensure that excessive water is drained off through regular channels and what happened in Sindh and Balochistan last year doesn’t happen again; and two, adequate measures are put in place through which people are duly warned against heatwave and heat-generated evaporation of reservoirs.

And who could be more alarmed about the threat of excessive rains caused by El Nino than the country’s Climate Change Minister Senator Sherry Rehman. In her timely warning she has forecast severe impact of heavy rains on the agriculture and livestock sectors and advised farmers to take necessary precautions. She has rightly said that high winds, heavy rains and hailstorms are likely to cause damage to standing and recently harvested crops. They may adversely affect new sowing efforts as well. The excessive rains are equally detrimental to the road and rail travel networks in the country. While in some areas the excessive rains cause flooding and wash out roads and bridges; in others, they cause landslides, leaving quite a few segments of populated areas inaccessible. Of course Nature is all-powerful, but man too has also learnt to coexist with it – by devising ways and means to resist the anger of Nature. As for the El-Nino fallout quite a few initiatives are in order, and if initiated in time the losses caused by excessive rains can be minimised. Something which can be done immediately is opening up the drains that tend to be chocked by irresponsible disposal of trash and construction leftovers. But in the long-term the rivers and natural streams need to be deepened. Also, there should be technical arrangements to take water out of the low lands by connecting them to natural channels. And as for the heatwave, which too is likely to be intense this summer, the people should be advised not to expose themselves to sun unnecessarily, and for cases of sunstroke the hospitals should be adequately equipped. In sum, both the excessive rains and heatwaves are due shortly in Pakistan, but timely actions and well-planned programmes can reduce their negative fallout.