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Pakistan’s Devastating Floods

What’s happening?

Since June, Pakistan has experienced its heaviest rainfalls on record in a monsoon season that officials are describing as apocalyptic. Devastation ramped up in the last few weeks as areas near the Indus River faced unprecedented flooding, with some seeing as much as five times their normal rainfall levels for this time of year.

According to Pakistan’s climate change minister Sherry Rehman, one-quarter to one-third of the country could be underwater by the end of the monsoon season—which typically lasts through September. Pakistan’s Sindh and Balochistan provinces have been the hardest hit, where rainfall is 500% above average. Satellite images from NASA show the Indus River in Sindh overflowing into a 100 km-wide inland lake

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Government officials are attributing the disaster to global warming, which increases extreme rainfall events. Pakistan already had an extreme heatwave this year and is consistently ranked in the top 10 countries most likely to experience climate change effects. 

However, the government is also being criticized for its mismanagement of extreme weather events. Following Pakistan’s devastating 2010 floods, the country’s government formed a commission. Its goal was to create a comprehensive damage report and plan for future disasters, but the government has taken little action in the last 12 years.

To make matters worse, the country has been embroiled in a political crisis since April when Pakistan’s then-PM, Imran Khan, was forced out in a no-confidence vote. Between political turbulence and the country’s worsening economic crisis, the government’s attention has been anything but focused on disaster relief since the start of monsoon season. According to BBC correspondent Farhat Javed, it took viral videos of flooding on social media for Pakistan’s government to respond. 


An aerial view of flooding in Pakistan’s Sindh province, discovered on the Echosec Platform and translated from Urdu.

What’s the impact?

Many of the towns and villages affected by flooding have become inaccessible to aid, making it hard to quantify damages accurately. Conservative estimates say that over 33 million people are displaced and over 1,100 have died so far. Pakistan’s finance minister also estimated damages to exceed $10 billion. Experts say that the scale of this year’s disaster is many times greater than the 2010 floods, which killed over 2,000 people.

Millions lack access to food and clean drinking water, and already inflated food prices are soaring as floods destroy Pakistan’s crops. The floods will significantly affect Pakistan’s agricultural sector and textile industry, which makes up the bulk of Pakistan’s exports. This will have cascading effects on countries relying on Pakistan’s agricultural imports, such as those facing food shortages as a result of Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Beyond the immediate impacts of Pakistan’s floods, the disaster is raising questions about climate crisis inequities and how the brunt of disaster relief should be distributed. Pakistan emits less than 1% of global carbon emissions, yet the country is one of the world’s most affected by dangerous climate change impacts. The US and other advanced nations most responsible for greenhouse gas emissions have historically opposed the concept of climate compensation, which is expected to be a key topic at the UN’s next climate meeting in November.

How can OSINT tools help?

Locals often post public updates to social networks from the scene of a natural disaster in real time. This makes social media one of the fastest news sources for crises, providing on-the-ground information in areas inaccessible to journalists and aid organizations. 

This open-source intelligence (OSINT) is valuable for understanding the scale of damage and where humanitarian resources are required, especially since analysts can often geolocate content. A faster, more accurate response can help emergency management teams minimize loss of human life and infrastructure damage.

Secondly, OSINT is valuable for understanding the impacts of climate change in countries that are also politically and economically unstable. Research has suggested that climate change is increasing the risk of armed conflicts. In conflicts like the Syrian Civil War, climate change can compound with other pre-existing factors to spark instability. Open-source data from sources like social media, online forums, and chat applications offer intelligence organizations valuable insights—such as the state of public sentiment or government narratives—into areas of interest.

To learn more about OSINT solutions, practices, and data sources supporting disaster relief and geopolitical assessments, book a call with Echosec.
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