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People cool off at a swimming pool during a hot summer day in Lahore on April 28, 2022. Image Credit: AFP

Islamabad: With temperatures in Pakistan soaring at 48°C in some parts of rural Sindh, Pakistan’s climate change ministry issued a heatwave alert in all provinces and advised people and authorities to take precautionary measures.

Pakistan Met Office said that most parts of Pakistan would experience “above normal” temperatures and remain in the grip of heatwave conditions during the current week till May 2.

The extreme heat has threatened crops, increased fire risks and flooding from melting glaciers, Pakistan Met Office said. Pakistanis are also experiencing long power outages in sweltering heat and during the month of Ramadan, making fasting even more challenging. “This is the first time we are seeing this scorching weather in April in Islamabad. Usually, we experience this weather in June,” said 32-year-old schoolteacher Saba Usman.

“The unannounced and long load-shedding hours in Ramadan have made things even worse,” she complained. Islamabad city recorded a maximum of 39C on April 28.

Temperatures are surging to dangerously high levels across the country. The city of Dadu in Sindh hit 48°C (118 degrees Fahrenheit) — reported to be the hottest in the region this year in April so far. Maximum temperatures on April 28 were recorded in these cities: Dadu (48°C), Dera Ghazi Khan (Punjab) and Sibbi (Balochistan) 47°C, Mohenjo Daro 46°C, Multan, Sukkur and Sargodha 45°C. There’s no escape in sight from ruthless heat as the mercury is forecasted to hit 50°C in Jacobabad city of Sindh.

“A heatwave in the month of March and April is unprecedented and alarming,” said climate change minister Sherry Rehman. “South Asia, particularly India and Pakistan are faced with what has been a record-breaking heatwave” during Ramadan,” she said, adding that unusually hot weather and insufficient rainfall “is harmful to agriculture output and public health.” March 2022 was ranked the ninth driest month since 1961 as the national rainfall remained 62 per cent below normal, according to Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD).

Heatwave worries farmers

Record-breaking temperatures and little rain so far this year left the farmers worried in the country known for its agrarian economy. Pakistani farmers face the dual threat of enduring severe hot conditions on the job and heatwaves affecting the quality of crops. “The early summer in the form of heatwave has negatively impacted the wheat crop, particularly in South Punjab, as it led to wheat crop ripening early” which affects the average yield, Pakpattan-based farmer Aamer Hayat Bhandara told Gulf News.

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Aamer fears that the unusual change in climate may decline wheat production by six to nine per cent and can also impact livestock production.

Pakistan mainly produces wheat, rice, cotton, maize and sugarcane - which are affected by climate change. “This heatwave is not only impacting the wheat crop but it may lead to lower productivity in corn as well as upcoming rice crops. This will not just affect the lives of farmers but can lead to food insecurity and put the economy under stress” he cautioned. Adaptation to climate-smart strategies is essential for Pakistan to achieve food security while reducing the impacts of climate change, suggests Aamer, who is leading ‘Digital Dera’ - the first of its kind digital agriculture community network in Pakistan.

The human-caused global climate change is becoming more evident with frequent heatwaves, droughts, and changes in rainfall patterns. It is also impacting agriculture and affecting crop yields around the world. “Climate change may affect the production of maize and wheat as early as 2030,” according to the latest Nasa study.