Social Protection Resource Centre

Blaming Nature, Ignoring Management in triggering Social Unrest

Author: Naeem Akram Abbasi (Research Associate)

The recent flood of late 2022 was one of the most devastating episodes in the history of flooding in Pakistan that took away about 1730 lives and affected 33 million people according to the Post Disaster Need Assessment (PDNA). It resulted in 30-billion-dollar economic loss with 2million acre cropland damage estimated by ministry of Foreign Affairs that accelerated the food inflation exponentially hiking the price of onion, tomatoes, and other crops. Further the PDNA Impact Assessment reveal that it will push between 8.4 to 9.1 million people below the Poverty line, GDP is projected to loss at 2.2%.

The drivers of this turmoil are considered as sum of natural calamity and global CO2 emitters often considered the advanced industrialized nations that are continually increasing their per capita and industrialization at the cost of damaging poor nations. As according to the various research studies the share of emission of developing countries is deemed low while comparing with the advance nations and Pakistan’s emission share is estimated at less than 1% by various national and international researchers and institutions.

Although these are the potential drivers of this devastating episode, but poor management also contributed significantly to this happening at the large scale that could be potentially managed to cause the destruction at such a greater scale. Despite the several warnings of unusual rains in the months of July-august that estimated higher than 37% than the average rainfall every normal year the relevant authorities failed to be prepared and stand by mode switching and aligning the available resources in accordance with the alarming signals of unusual rainfalls (PIDE Knowledge Brief).

Hence, the social unrest hike triggered by the devastating flood in Pakistan can be attributed to a combination of poor management and a natural calamity.

While it is true that natural calamities such as floods are beyond human control, the severity of their impact can be reduced through proper planning and management. Unfortunately, in the case of Pakistan, poor management of water resources, lack of effective flood management strategies, and inadequate infrastructure have contributed to the severity of the floods and the resulting social unrest.

In addition to this, the floods have highlighted the existing socio-economic disparities in the country, with the poorest communities being the hardest hit by the disaster. The inadequate response of the government to provide relief and assistance to those affected has further fueled anger and frustration among the affected communities, leading to social unrest. Therefore, while it is important to acknowledge the role of natural calamities in triggering social unrest, it is equally important to recognize the role of human factors such as poor management, inadequate infrastructure, and socio-economic disparities in exacerbating the situation.

The great threats generated and alarmed by this episode includes the food insecurity threats, education and health starvations (more than 8 million facing health crises due to stagnant water causing water-borne and vector-borne diseases), hike in the social unrest by both criminal activities and raised risk and fear of second turmoil, food inflation and downfall of almost all the economic indicators.

To tackle the issue in future both structural and non-structural measure should be adopted along with the Reconstruction and rehabilitation with a view of building back a better future, adaptation and climate resilience, better public spending, better domestic revenue mobilization targeted on the highly deprives and vulnerable societal segment. Structural measures are long-term development interventions while non-structural measures are based on short-term response to build community resilience. Additionally, it is turning point and strong indicator signaled for the formulation and implementation of a comprehensive, effective, and intensive social protection policy in accordance with the universal social protection norms as the episode under discussion alarm for its effectiveness in urgency to save the vulnerable segment with mental and social deprivation from the situation of insecurity, volatility and uncertainty caused by such happenings.