Is Karachi Prepared for Heatwave 2016

A few weeks ago, I wrote an article about how CNN International Correspondent, Saima Mohsin, used social media to enhance her journalism. In that article, I shared some of Mohsin’s Twitter posts where she fiercely called out the Chief Minister of Sindh and the Pakistan People’s Party for not doing enough for the people of Sindh during last year’s deadly heatwave.  What killed more people than the unrelenting heat was that the poorest, weakest and most vulnerable populations had inadequate supplies and knowledge with which to combat the heatwave.

Eight months after the record heat killed over 1,000 Pakistanis, we take a look at what needs to be done to improve conditions in Sindh to ensure the people are ready for the next scorching summer.

Since the disaster of June 2015, many have called upon the Pakistani government to provide public service announcements about the symptoms of heat stroke and how to treat it.  During the last heat wave, which occurred during Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar observed by fasting, many Pakistanis were drinking no water from dawn to dusk.  It wasn’t until over 400 people had died that anyone broadcasted the need to suspend their fast due to the emergency.  

The impact of the sweltering weather took the city by surprise and medical facilities were overrun.  Their hospitals need to be ready with excess supplies for rehydration, cots and linens and have all staff prepared to deal with a flood of patients seeking medical attention this summer.

Most importantly, the power must remain on.  Due to massive power outages, many in Karachi were without electricity and could not run fans or cooling apparatuses.  This turned an intolerable weather occurrence into a deadly disaster.

 The Sindh High Court is asking NEPRA (National Electric Power Regulatory Authority) to release their findings into “the discriminatory distribution of electricity by K-Electric in Karachi before the court proceeds with a petition seeking a judicial probe into the 1,000 deaths during last summer’s heatwave.”   K-Electric is accused of shutting off entire grids due to electricity theft in low income neighborhoods, leaving paying customers without power too.

Even today, Karachi is experiencing a mild heatwave expected to last until March 3, 2016.  But there is no mention of this on K-Electric’s Facebook Page.  Instead their posts revolve around more scheduled maintenance shutdowns and something called Operation Burq, their program for thwarting electricity theft and defaulters.