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Pakistan recently witnessed high temperatures in May 2022. Extreme temperature variations are becoming the norm not only in the city of Jacobabad, Pakistan but all around the world. A 15-year-old boy, Sajjad Ali, was brought to the Civil Hospital at Jacobabad in a semi-conscious and dehydrated state. Sajjad, who operates a tractor in a field near Jacobabad, was admitted to the heatstroke center when his high temperature- 102 degrees Fahrenheit remained the same for nearly a week.
Another patient was admitted to the ward when his temperature rose to 102 degrees, with severe body aches and dehydration. Muhammad Musa, 65 years old, also worked in the rice field on the outskirts of Jacobabad. The city of Jacobabad, in Pakistan’s Sindh Province, has earned a new name- one of the hottest cities on Earth.
Jacobabad is pushing the limits of human liveability on an increasingly warming earth. Since the beginning of the summer season in March, India, and Pakistan experienced a sudden heatwave that affected over one billion people in both countries. Jacobabad was one of the worst cities hit by the extreme heatwave- with temperatures rising to 51 degrees Celsius (124 Fahrenheit). Temperatures increased more than usual for 51 days continuously.
The month of February witnessed temperatures up to 123.8 degrees Fahrenheit. A 12-year-old boy walking home from school collapsed due to extreme heat after spending his day in a classroom with no electricity.
Besides the extremely warm conditions, the city also experienced water shortages simultaneously. The canals in Jacobabad, an important source of irrigation for crops, ran dry. According to experts, the weather condition is in line with the trend of climate change and global warming.
According to the Deputy Commissioner of Jacobabad, Abdul Hafeez Siyal, the city is on the front line of global warming, and all residents of Jacobabad, including animals, are suffering. Nearly all the residents of the city and the surrounding villages live in poverty. Further, they also face water shortage and power cut issues, adding to the struggle to fight the heat.
Everyone in Jacobabad is trying their best to adapt to the increasing heat. According to a city resident, Shafi Mohammad, the heat is like a fire burning in the city; the people urgently need proper water and electricity supply. Power cuts mean that rural areas only get 6 hours of electricity per day while those in the city get 12 hours. Water across Pakistan is scarce with several infrastructural issues, making drinking water unaffordable and unreliable.
A woman in Jacobabad, Khairun Nissa, gave birth during the heatwave in May; she had to spend the last few days of her pregnancy under a single fan shared between 13 other family members. Her newborn son now occupies her place under the fan.
Outside Khairun’s small brick house, the smell of garbage and dirty water hangs in the air, while a government-installed water tap runs dry most of the time. Most people live in the same situation as Khairun.
It seems that local water mafias in the areas are filling the water supply gap. The water mafias have tapped into the government reserves to pipe water in certain areas. Further, cans of water are filled and transported to markets by a donkey cart. Each can of water is sold for 20 rupees per 20 liters.
According to Zafar Ullah Lashari, an unlicensed water supplier, if we didn’t run our water plants, the people of Jacobabad would face several difficulties.
Women in the outskirts of Jacobabad wake up at 3 am to collect water from a well. However, even that water is not sufficient for them and their families. People raising cattle for milk and sale prefer to give clean drinking water to the cattle first as their livelihood depends on the animals. If the cattle die, how would they survive?
According to the Global Climate Risk Index by Germanwatch, Pakistan is the 8th most vulnerable country to severe weather conditions caused by climate change. Natural disasters have killed and displaced thousands of lives in Pakistan. Several people from Jacobabad leave the city in the summer. According to Professor Nausheen H. Anwar, the authorities in Jacobabad need to explore solutions beyond the usual emergency and short-term responses.
Several school girls and boys in Jacobabad crowd around a water hand pump to drink water even before school begins. The city does not have basic facilities, resulting in additional difficulties.
The people in the city are left helpless; there is nothing they can do about this situation. From school children to senior citizens, all suffer from headaches, diarrhea, dehydration, and more. People are suffocating in the heat. Some want to earn money, find jobs and leave the city only due to the heat.
The situation in Jacobabad is only an example of what other regions in the world will face in the coming years. As mentioned previously, extreme temperature variations are becoming the norm around the globe.