Impacts of Monsoon Rains on Pakistan’s Economy

Heavy Monsoons in Pakistan and the surrounding region have recently resulted in flash floods that have claimed over 150 lives and devastated hundreds of homes. Karachi, Pakistan’s commercial capital and most populous area, was the site of some of the worst flooding due to the city’s insufficient drainage system. Unfortunately for Pakistan, the July-August monsoon season is barely halfway over. It is reported by Pakistan Tribune.

monsoon-pakAccording to the paper, this is not the first time (and unfortunately, it is unlikely to be the last) that Pakistan has suffered from extreme flooding. The 2010 monsoon season saw heavy flooding throughout Pakistan’s Khyber Pukhtunkhwa, Sindh, Punjab, and Baluchistan regions—nearly 20% of Pakistan’s total area. These floods were among the worst on record, with 20 million people affected and a death toll of almost 2,000 people.

While the impact of the monsoon season and subsequent flooding on human life in Pakistan is not to be understated, it is also critical to understand the impact these kinds of catastrophes have on the economy. As previously mentioned, Karachi, the locus of much of Pakistan’s economic activity has been heavily affected by recent events as it has been by past natural disasters.

The paper further informed that the damage from the 2010 Pakistan floods was estimated to exceed 4 billion USD (408.8 billion PKR), due to the destruction of infrastructure and the harm to crops and farmland. The damage to wheat crops alone was estimated at over 500 million USD (51.1 billion PKR). The total economic impact—damages, human productivity, and the rest—was ultimately estimated to be as much as 43 billion USD (4.4 trillion PKR).

Although the 2013 monsoon season is not shaping up to be as devastating as the 2010 season, the economic impact is still significant, especially considering the large amount of damage done to Karachi. How can Pakistan move forward economically despite the wreckage?

The first step is to assess where damage has been done. The best policy is to begin the recovery in the regions least affected by the disaster. This means that certain sectors of the economy can rapidly begin functioning at full capacity, rather than many sectors functioning partially or minimally.

Rebuilding activity, in and of itself, has been shown to stimulate economic growth in the short term. The area attracts clean-up crews, contractors, builders, medical professionals and others who are interested in helping. All these parties give a boost to local businesses while they stay to help with the recovery efforts.

One of the most useful things that governments, private organizations, and even individuals can do during the recovery period is assess the existing emergency protocols. Organizations can consider what worked or is working well during the present disaster and use these findings to formulate a more robust plan for the future or to share experiences with neighboring areas. This can apply to subjects such as emergency response teams, evacuation protocols, or other procedures.

Although it is terrible to lose infrastructure, homes, or more during a disaster, this loss creates an opportunity to build stronger infrastructure. If a bridge gave out, for example, perhaps a better bridge design is needed or the bridge needs to be at a place in the river that is less prone to flooding. Governments might send out survey teams to investigate the places most vulnerable to flooding and build a series of dams or dikes. This is an excellent time for the government to invest in long-term projects that will provide safety and stability in future disasters.

Finally, it has been suggested there should be an emphasis on economic stability; it reduces vulnerability to natural disaster. The most important task after a disaster is to foster economic stability as much as possible. A cycle is created: sturdy infrastructure makes it possible for the economy to keep running post-disaster, which in turn makes the economy stronger, which buttresses it against natural disaster. This suggests that in the wake of a disaster, finding the resources to rebuild in more than an ad-hoc way could be critical for success against future issues.

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