Understanding the potential for flood risk for Pakistan’s construction industry, both now and in the future is crucial as we experience more frequent extreme weather events.
Over the past few years, there are major destructions made by floods such as Storm Frank in northeast Scotland have caused significant and long-lasting disruption to lives and property. It’s not a localized problem. Around the world, there have been unprecedented flood events, for example, the devastating flooding in Pakistan in October 2022, in which more than 1,700 people died.
Floods are the temporary covering of land by water that is otherwise dry in normal conditions. Flood is usually caused by rain, heavy thunderstorms, and thaw melting of snow. Floods are made more likely by the more extreme weather patterns caused by long-term global climate change. Changes in land cover, such as the removal of vegetation, and climate change increase flood risk.
Rising Global Temperatures
We have more energy in the Earth’s system when the temperature rises. Higher air and ocean temperatures enhance the likelihood of evaporation, which in turn increases the likelihood of cloud formation. The air can contain more moisture when it is warmer. Precipitation intensity, duration, and/or frequency may rise as a result of this.
Higher latitudes see a faster rise in temperature than the equator. As a result, there is less of a temperature difference between polar and mid-latitude temperatures, which may have an impact on the jet stream. According to the study, there may be an increased frequency of extreme hydro-meteorological occurrences in the North Atlantic region, such as powerful storms in the winter and protracted droughts in the summer.
Factors Increasing Flood Risk in Pakistan
Following are some of the major reasons for flood risk for Pakistan’s construction industry.
The changing climate patterns have had a significant impact on the frequency and severity of floods in Pakistan. Rising temperatures, altered precipitation patterns, and changing monsoon dynamics have disrupted the natural balance and increased the likelihood of extreme rainfall events.
- Monsoon Patterns
Pakistan heavily relies on the monsoon season for its water supply. However, climate change has led to more erratic and intense monsoons, resulting in excessive rainfall and subsequent flooding.
- Glacial Melt
The melting of glaciers in the Himalayan region contributes to increased river flow, heightening the risk of riverine floods. Glacial lake outbursts pose additional threats, as sudden releases of large volumes of water can cause flash floods downstream.
- River Systems
Pakistan’s intricate river network, including the Indus River, amplifies flood risks. The monsoon rainfall, combined with poor river management, often leads to breaches in riverbanks and widespread inundation.
Rampant deforestation has reduced the natural capacity of forests to absorb rainwater and control runoff, thereby exacerbating flood risks. Trees play a crucial role in stabilizing slopes, preventing soil erosion, and regulating water flow.
Rapid urban growth and inadequate urban planning contribute to increased flood vulnerability. Construction on floodplains and the encroachment of natural drainage systems restrict the natural flow of water, leading to more severe and frequent urban floods.
- Improper Land Management
Mismanagement of land resources, including unsustainable agricultural practices and haphazard construction, further compounds flood risks. Improper water drainage systems and inadequate reservoir management can intensify the impacts of heavy rainfall events.
Floods in Pakistan and Construction Industry
Pakistan, a country susceptible to frequent and devastating floods, faces significant challenges in the realm of the construction industry. Climate change leading to increased flood risk for Pakistan’s construction industry, the construction sector plays a critical role in mitigating the impact of floods and building resilience in the face of these challenges.
Vulnerability of the Construction Industry
- Infrastructure Damage
Floods can cause substantial damage to buildings, roads, bridges, and other critical infrastructure, leading to economic losses and hindering development efforts.
- Project Delays
Construction projects often face delays due to flood-related disruptions such as waterlogging, material damage, and access issues.
- Safety Concerns:
Floods pose risks to construction site safety, endangering workers and causing potential injuries or fatalities.
Importance of Flood-Resilient Construction Practices
- Building Codes and Regulations
Adhering to robust building codes and regulations that consider flood resilience is crucial for constructing structures that can withstand flood events.
- Construction Techniques and Materials
Utilizing flood-resistant construction techniques and materials, such as raised foundations, waterproofing, and durable materials, enhances the resilience of buildings in flood-prone areas.
- Sustainable Drainage Systems
Implementing proper drainage systems, including effective stormwater management and flood control measures, is essential for mitigating flood risks in construction projects.
Adaptation Strategies for the Construction Industry
- Flood Risk Assessment
Conducting thorough flood risk assessments before commencing construction projects helps identify vulnerable areas and inform mitigation strategies.
- Site Selection and Design
Choosing suitable locations and designing structures that consider floodplain zoning, elevation, and drainage patterns can minimize flood-related vulnerabilities.
- Collaboration and Knowledge Sharing
Collaboration between government bodies, construction industry stakeholders, and flood management experts facilitates the exchange of knowledge and best practices in flood-resilient construction.
Policy and Planning
- Integrated Planning
Incorporating flood risk management considerations into urban planning and development frameworks can ensure the construction industry aligns with long-term resilience goals.
- Regulatory Frameworks
Strengthening and enforcing regulations related to flood-resistant construction practices fosters a culture of resilience within the industry.
- Insurance and Financial Mechanisms
Encouraging the adoption of flood insurance and establishing financial mechanisms to support post-flood recovery and reconstruction efforts can enhance the industry’s ability to bounce back.
Opportunities for Growth and Innovation:
- Retrofitting and Rehabilitation
Retrofitting existing structures to improve flood resilience presents opportunities for the construction industry to revitalize infrastructure and create jobs.
- Research and Development
Investing in research and development of innovative flood-resistant construction technologies and materials can drive growth and competitiveness within the sector.
- Green Infrastructure
Embracing nature-based solutions, such as green roofs, permeable pavements, and natural water retention systems, not only improves flood resilience but also contributes to sustainable development and environmental conservation.
It is vital to recognize the complex interplay between climate change which may cause flood risk for Pakistan’s construction industry, natural factors, and human activities in driving flood risks in Pakistan. The construction industry in Pakistan faces significant challenges posed by floods, but it also holds immense potential for driving resilience and sustainable development. By adopting flood-resistant construction practices, collaborating with relevant stakeholders, and aligning with robust policies and regulations, the industry can build a more resilient future. Embracing innovative approaches and seizing opportunities for growth, the construction sector can contribute to a safer, more sustainable, and flood-resilient Pakistan.