Karachi, where climate refugees are becoming a reality

Karachi, where climate refugees are becoming a reality

KARACHI: Each and every day a large number of people come to settle in Karachi. It's nothing new as for generations the city has been an attraction to the poor who escape rural poverty.

But now there's another driver that has accelerated the race to the capital: the changing of climate, which has already made life extremely difficult in the stretches of this country which has different geographical regions.

The said areas are bearing the brunt of climate change being reflected in extreme weather events like severe drought, flooding, reducing agriculture or dying delta of River Indus.

There have not been many studies indisputably tying Pakistan's rural exodus to climate. But a research indicates that the majority of migrants hail from arid regions and also from coastal areas that are already experiencing rising sea levels, increased salinity, destructive floods and cyclones.

At least 1 million people move to Karachi every three years, according to the World Bank, while the International Organization for Migration (IOM) estimates that 60 percent of Karachi's slum-dwellers moved there after fleeing some sort of extreme weather event of degradation of environment and lost of livelihood.

"Since Karachi is a big city, we hope to find good job opportunities here but it seems life is more difficult than back at the village where we were able to find many things free of cost and here we have to pay for everything, even for drinking water," said a resident of Sindhabad.

In the coming decades, millions more "climate refugees" around the world are expected to make similar journeys. Unfortunately, many will wind up in cities even more ill-equipped to withstand the changing climate.

Rubina traveled across Sindh to escape poverty after losing her home in the floods. The makeshift hut she shares with her husband and three children in Karachi, Sindh's capital, sits on the edge of the rambling Sindhabad slum - next to Superhighway, the country's busiest road that connects the port city with
entire Pakistan.

Sandwiched between highway and hilly areas, the huge slums that run parallel to Superhighway, inundated during rains. When it rains, soggy water splashes into their shelters. Only their bed, raised up on bamboo sticks, stays dry. "This hut is all we have, so we need to stay here no matter what happens," said Rubina.

Those living inside Katcha area of River Indus have started receiving floods frequently, and residents of Sindh's Thar Desert, Nara desert, Kachho or Khositan regions of Sindh and districts on Balochistan's Makran coast have suffered with severe droughts.

Six years ago, a monsoon flood left nothing standing in their village, located in the Katcha area in Ghotki district in northern Sindh. "It was night time and almost the entire village submerged. We had no option but to climb up the banks with our belongings immediately," said Rubina. "Within a week, we moved to Karachi to start a new life."