Nobody escapes the weather. It touches every one of us every day of our entire lives. That touch can range from a balmy scented breeze in spring to the brutal blow to the body delivered unexpectedly in the north of the country last week wreaking havoc from Peshawar to Rawalpindi. It is the weather that is the source of the catastrophic floods in recent years, the weather that parches our deserts and kills indiscriminately in the ferocious heatwaves that grip the country. The weather is everywhere all the time. It cannot be switched on and off, it is getting more extreme as global warming advances and it is in our best interests to be as well informed about its vagaries as far in advance as is humanly and scientifically possible — which is where things have gone considerably wrong.
Predicting the weather has made many advances over the years and ground-based radars are an essential component of weather prediction. Unfortunately and considering our position as one of the most vulnerable countries when it comes to the effects of global warming, this is an area where we lag far behind. The radars currently in place are years, decades in some locations, out of date and need upgrading or replacing. On top of this, the Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD) has been dealt a blow in the new budget. The government is to put a miserly Rs145.35 million into the pot and is relying on donor nations for the Rs274.03 million to make up the rest of the budget. Even so this is far below the Rs759.72 million that the PMD had sought to replace the elderly radars at Lahore, Sialkot and Mangla. These are not luxury items, these radars are crucial infrastructure and the fact that they have not been prioritised indicate that either the government simply does not understand the implications of climate change, or if it does, then it is not accorded the priority that would see the needs of the PMD — and the population — properly serviced. This is dangerous penny-pinching that toys with an entire population. We urge the government to revisit this myopic policy.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 8th, 2016.