Snowfall in Pakistan

Pakistan has quite a diverse weather amongst all of its provinces. Whereas Sindh remains relatively pleasant during winters with no snowfall, the northern mountainous terrains experience sharp winter conditions and snowfalls. This year too is no different. Western, northern and northwestern parts of the country have experienced severe winters and heavy snowfalls. However, you can say that due to the effects of global warming, Pakistan has experienced more snowfall than usual. The cold wave in the entire country is more extreme than that experienced in the past many years. The shocking part is that the extreme cold from the northern areas has brought harsh weather conditions to Sindh especially Karachi where winters are quite moderate. Karachi has hit an all-time low of 5/6 degrees Centigrade weather which is almost unheard of in this region!

In the very hot regions of Pakistan like Sindh and somewhat Islamabad and Lahore, winters are enjoyed to the fullest with picnics, drinking chai all night, wedding season galore and BBQs. However, in those regions where the weather goes below freezing point with extreme snowfall, the snow is a cause of distress and discomfort and even gets life-threatening for those without proper clothing and due to poor infrastructure!

Advantages

Tourism

Snowfall and extremely cold weather in the northern and western parts of the country cause metropolitan cities such as Lahore and Karachi to have pleasant weather. This relieves the citizens from the constant humid and hot temperatures around the year. Moreover, in such weather; events and festivals can take place that is a source of entertainment for the residents and it provides a good opportunity for tourists as well to visit these cities in pleasant weather. 

Talking about tourism, the best time considered to visit Pakistan is during December, January, and February. The tourists can enjoy pleasant weather, no humid climate and in some specific areas, snowfall as well. 

Skiing also opens up in the winter month’s further bringing tourists who enjoy the sport and want to experience it at a lower cost than they would incur in European countries. Ski resorts like Malam Jabba experience fun snow festivals along with skiing, snow tubing, ice skating, fireworks and concerts that attract many tourists and locals.  

These festivals help to boost local culture as several stalls are added selling traditional dresses, food and also handicrafts.

Agriculture

Pakistan is no doubt an agriculture-based economy and the rains and snowfalls help it to retain this sector, especially for Rabi crops. The snowfalls help to increase the water reservoir that can further help fruit trees, especially apples. April, May, and June are harsh summer months in Pakistan with little to no rainfall and the water from reservoirs can be used for agricultural needs then.

Combat general water shortage

It is no secret that Pakistan is a developing nation and is often scarce of water resources in the harsh and dry summer months. More snowfalls and rain helps fill up Pakistan’s reservoirs and dams that can be utilized in months of water shortage. Also, in the summer, there is more melting of glaciers bringing in more water to the bottom of the mountain where agriculture is usually carried out. Another factor is that electricity shortage, especially in summers, can be combated with water by building appropriate dams with hydroelectric power. 

Hence, more snow in the winters can mean a relatively peaceful summer season with good crops and fewer water shortages.

Disadvantages

Avalanches

Due to generally the poor infrastructure in Pakistan, fewer rescue facilities and more snowfall; lots of parts of the country have been hit by major avalanches. The death toll this year in Neelum valley has already reached 75 and 77 in Azad Jammu Kashmir. The injured toll is even higher. Children and adults are succumbing to brain injuries and wounds after their homes and villages are being struck by a huge mass of snow and they are buried under it for hours at a stretch. The evacuation of victims is being carried out day and night with choppers also. Moreover, food supplies are being distributed to those affected. But the fact remains that natural disasters are hard to beat. Moreover, the steep terrains of the mountains of Pakistan combined with the poor infrastructure make it difficult for rescue operations to reach those affected on time. Hence, for people in the snow struck areas of Pakistan, snowfall is a curse and causing more harm than good.

Poverty and lack of proper gear

More than half the population of Pakistan is indeed below the poverty line. Those living in the northern areas are still used to the extreme temperatures and have the proper gear to protect their bodies. However, in areas where the chills were unexpected such as Karachi, people were neither ready nor have the monetary resources to buy the right clothing. 

The poor people, beggars, and laborers do not have blankets, sweaters, caps or heating in their homes to protect from the harsh weather conditions. Moreover, they are getting severely sick which is further putting a strain on their narrow pockets and even resulting in deaths. 

The irony of the situation is that whereas in some places of Pakistan, winter is being rejoiced and celebrated with festivals and weddings; other places are being mourned with deaths, hunger, illnesses and cold. In my opinion, for developing nations, snowfall is not a blessing but a curse for many people who have lost their families and loved ones and for those who cannot afford to keep themselves and their families warm. We as a community should strive to help the government in its rescue operations and keep an eye out for anyone who does not have the right gear by giving them our spare sweaters and blankets.

 Afshan Riaz Bhayani
Afshan Riaz Bhayani

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