Hoor Asrar describes the
Cyclone prone Pakistani coast – Luckily Pakistan was largely spared the rigours of Cyclone Biparjoy but it has brought to fore yet again the lurking dangers posed by the devastating energy hidden in the apparently calm sea waters that is frequently unleashed causing misery to vast coastal belt of the country. The frequent upheavals caused are attributed to the horrors of climate change that kept hitting the human race with consistent regularity symptomatic of the profound energy that is stirred by it. Cyclone Biparjoy was reported to be contained in its wake relentless power that was simply unmanageable in its content having the potential to widely disrupt lives of the people falling within its range. Pakistan has a coastline of 1,046 kilometres along the Arabian Sea, which is typically prone to cyclones just before and after the monsoon season lasting from July to September. Pakistan may have a slight advantage that it is located on the coast of Arabian Sea that is hundreds of kilometres away from the Indian Ocean and this distance acts as the buffer zone once cyclones are formed in the main oceanic depths. Nevertheless, Pakistan goes through enormous storms, floods and heatwaves that are now considered the offshoot of the overall global change.
The technical arguments forwarded in this respect pertain to two major basins of the northern Indian Ocean, namely the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea. Though the Arabian Sea was long taken to be pacific in nature but in the last few decades it started showing signs of climate change process. To begin with the sea surface temperatures over the Arabian Sea have increased from 1.2 to 1.4 degrees Celsius and it is feared that it will keep on rising and would create cyclone activity. It is precisely the reason that in recent years Arabian Sea was exposed to rising number of storms that is quantified as a 52 per cent rise in the total number of cyclones and a 150 per cent increase in the number of severe cyclones in the last four decades with increased global warming causing an exponential rise in the frequency and intensity of tropical cyclones in the region. With rapid shifts in global temperature, cyclones are becoming more and more likely to occur in places where they are least expected and this is the weak area of planning and handling machinery of the country.
The intensity of temperature rises in the Arabian Sea and its adjoining Indian Ocean has rendered the coasts of the subcontinent under growing threat. The coastal areas of Pakistan particularly in Sindh and Balochistan have already witnessed the frequency of rainfall and flash floods that witnessed an unprecedented burst of rain cloud inundating Sindh, lower areas of Balochistan and parts of South Punjab with some areas still under water. The storms raged ferociously with waves rising 3.5 meters inundating in its wake traditional mud-thatched roofs and straw houses that are particularly vulnerable to such high tides. Fishermen risked leaving behind their boats and other inhabitants of vulnerable spots are also unable to take their livestock with them during an emergency evacuation and face tremendous hardship as they lost their livelihoods. The problem is exacerbated by the fact that the affected coastal areas housing large and often impoverished populations are cumbersome to evacuate evacuation is often a difficult and imperfect solution.
It is pointed out that instead of treating evacuation as a sole solution and it is also not very practicable as was borne out by evacuation of almost 80,000 people from in southern Pakistan in wake of Biparjoy particularly Karachi, Thatta, Keti Bandar, Suja¬wal and Badin as these areas were devastated by floods only a year ago, leaving thousands displaced and scores of homes destroyed. Fortunately Biparjoy ebbed otherwise it could have badly damaged the areas in its predicted trajectory. Instead, Pakistan must turn to promote localised, eco-friendly and sustainable solutions like climate resilient infrastructure and water resistant homes particularly in Sindh. Until preventive measures are not taken the coastal areas will remain under tremendous risk of devastation.
In the 21st century Pakistan has been exposed to many significant cyclonic storms wreaking havoc in the coastal areas. In 2007 Cyclone Yemyin made its landfall along the Makran coast near Ormara and Pasni in Balochistan. Although the cyclone avoided Karachi, but the city received 33mm of rainfall, accompanied by strong winds and two days after a violent dust-storm killed over 200 people and left the city in chaos. Just days later a second tropical cyclone warning was given that ultimately made its landfall along the Makran Coast, killing 730 people and affecting the lives of two million others making it the third deadliest cyclone in the history of the country. Another cyclone named Gonu was rated to be the most intense Arabian Sea storm on record given category 5 implying the ferocity of its winds hit the Arabian Sea in 2007 made landfall first in Oman, before moving onto southern Iran claiming 100 lives in Oman, Iran and the United Arab Emirates and was responsible for $4 billion in damage. It also affected areas of Western India and Pakistan.
In 2010 the super tropical cyclone Phet emerged in a low-pressure area in the central Arabian Sea and intensified into a tropical cyclone. Initially, it was located at a distance of 1,100 km south-southwest of Karachi but then it moved towards the coast at a speed of 6 knots compelling issuance of warnings to fishermen in Sindh and Balochistan. It hit the northeastern Oman coast and was downgraded to a severe tropical cyclone. The next day, it recurved towards the Pakistani coast and made landfall along the Sindh coast between Karachi and Keti Bandar killing around 15 people with the Sindh-Makran coastal areas receiving heavy torrential rain. A deep depression over the Arabian Sea turned into a tropical cyclone called Nilofer in late October 2014. It was predicted to bring heavy rain along the coastline of Pakistan. The dreaded tropical Cyclone Nilo¬far nearly completed its cycle without hitting the coastlines of Pakistan and India. It turned into low pressure in the Arabian Sea which caused light rain in Karachi and some parts of lower Sindh.
In 2019 cyclone Kyarr hit coastal areas of Gwadar, Pasni, Ormara and Makran with the Gadani area of the Lasbela district cut off from other areas after seawater submerged it. Several villages along the Sindh coast were partially affected by the tidal waves rising under the influence of Kyarr and areas along the Sindh-Makran coast received rain. Cyclone Kyarr was unusual as it developed in the post-monsoon period (October-November) as historically cyclones of this intensity have been reported in the monsoon period. In 2021 cyclone Teuktae mainly impacted India in May of 2021 but also hit several areas in lower Sindh also received heavy winds killing many and injuring many more. The damages included the collapse of concrete structures following a dust storm and drizzle in Karachi. Cyclone Shaheen emerged in 2021 but moved away from Sindh’s coast and curved towards Oman, losing impact near Balochistan’s coast. Despite that, it did induce high winds light to moderate rainfall, at times isolated heavy falls, in Karachi. Several areas were submerged under water.