Floods in Pakistan damage mysterious ancient ruins as the death toll rises

Floods in Pakistan damage mysterious ancient ruins as the death toll rises

Floods in Pakistan damage mysterious ancient ruins as the death toll rises

Islamabad – Its millennial clay walls have silently witnessed the countless floods in the Indus River Valley over the centuries, but officials say this year’s catastrophic monsoon season could overwhelm the ancient Pakistani archaeological site of Mohenjo-daro. Most of the ruins, found in the flooded southern province of Sindh, date back to around 4,500 years ago. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is considered to be one of the best preserved ancient urban settlements in all of South Asia.

Now a calamity that scientists let’s say that the modern and developed world has much of the blame it is devastating millions of lives across Pakistan and damaging the archaeological treasure in the process.

Mohenjo-daro was first discovered in 1922, but the mystery still surrounds the disappearance of the civilization that once thrived there, which coincided with those of ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia. The enigmatic script used by the people of the city-state has never been deciphered, so little is understood about their beliefs or customs.

The ruins of Mohenjo Daro, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Pakistan's southern Sindh province, suffered damage from heavy rains that flooded much of the country on September 6, 2022. / Credit: Fareed Khan / AP

The ruins of Mohenjo Daro, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Pakistan’s southern Sindh province, suffered damage from heavy rains that flooded much of the country on September 6, 2022. / Credit: Fareed Khan / AP

The death toll from the monsoon flood that left about a third of Pakistan underwater was 1,325 on Wednesday, including 466 children. The disaster affected some 33 million people across the country. Now officials say Mohenjo-daro is another victim, with the punitive rains already causing significant damage to the site.

Rescue of the “mound of the dead”

“Several large walls, built nearly 5,000 years ago, collapsed due to monsoon rains,” site curator Ahsan Abbasi told The Associated Press this week.

He said dozens of construction workers, under the supervision of archaeologists, had already begun repair work. But conservation efforts in parts of the site were stalled as officials waited for the floodwaters to recede.

Abbasi did not provide an estimated cost to repair the damage at Mohenjo-daro, or whether all the expected damage to the ruins could be repaired.

A man walks in Mohenjo-daro, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Pakistan's southern Sindh province, after heavy rains in the region damaged some of the site's ruins on September 6, 2022. / Credit: Fareed Khan / AP

A man walks in Mohenjo-daro, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Pakistan’s southern Sindh province, after heavy rains in the region damaged some of the site’s ruins on September 6, 2022. / Credit: Fareed Khan / AP

The site’s landmark “Buddhist stupa,” a large hemispherical structure associated with worship, meditation and burial, was still intact, he said. But the downpours damaged some exterior walls and even some larger walls that separate individual rooms or chambers within the labyrinth of ruins.

Ironically, the Mohenjo-daro civilization, known as the “mound of the dead” in the local Sindhi language, has built an elaborate drainage system that has been instrumental in saving it from flooding in the past.

The villagers were left homeless and stranded

While this year’s floods hit virtually all of Pakistan, Sindh province was among the hardest hit.

On Tuesday, Pakistani Army engineers competed to make a second breach in an embankment along swollen Lake Manchar, Pakistan’s largest freshwater lake, to relieve rapidly rising water pressure. hope to save the nearby city of Sehwan from severe flooding.

Displaced people who fled the flood-affected areas sit on a tractor to drive through a flooded area in Sehwan, Pakistan's southern Sindh province, on August 31, 2022. / Credit: AKRAM SHAHID / AFP / Getty

Displaced people who fled the flood-affected areas sit on a tractor to drive through a flooded area in Sehwan, Pakistan’s southern Sindh province, on August 31, 2022. / Credit: AKRAM SHAHID / AFP / Getty

The lake’s water has already flooded dozens of neighboring villages, forcing hundreds of families to hurry out of their mud-brick homes, many of them panicking with only their clothes on.

Rescue operations continued, with troops and volunteers using helicopters and boats to reach thousands of people stranded in the flooded areas and evacuate them to the rescue camps. Tens of thousands of people have already sought refuge in the camps and thousands more have found high ground wherever possible, with makeshift tents along some main roads.

Ghulam Sabir, 52, from the outskirts of Sehwan, said on Tuesday he left his home three days earlier after authorities told his family to evacuate.

“I took my family members with me and came to this … safer place,” Sabir told the AP as he stood by the side of the road where he camped. He echoed the complaints of many other stranded villagers, who claimed that no government aid was reaching them.

Children whose families were displaced by the floods sit in a tent along a road in Shikarpur, in Pakistan's southern Sindh province, on August 30, 2022. / Credit: ASIF HASSAN / AFP / Getty

Children whose families were displaced by the floods sit in a tent along a road in Shikarpur, in Pakistan’s southern Sindh province, on August 30, 2022. / Credit: ASIF HASSAN / AFP / Getty

Sabir said he didn’t even know if his house was still standing.

Prime Minister Shabaz Sharif has appealed to Pakistanis at home and abroad to donate to flood relief and has stepped up appeals to the international community for more emergency aid.

Calls for “climate justice”

Sharif and other Pakistani officials have repeatedly said that the unprecedented scale of this year’s monsoon floods is at least in part the result of climate change caused by greenhouse gas emissions, mainly from developed countries.

Hina Jllani, who chairs Pakistan’s Human Rights Commission (HRCP), said in a press release Tuesday that in light of the devastating floods, the Commission was joining in with demands from the global community, and particularly from countries issuing more carbon dioxide, to immediately compensate Pakistan for the damage done to the earth’s atmosphere.

The HRCP said that while there has been “a lot to be desired” from the government’s relief and rehabilitation efforts for the flood-affected regions, they have left much to be desired, “it is clear that Pakistan is paying the price for a disaster. which was preventable and, above all, not on its own initiative. “

The Commission cited data from the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank which show that Pakistan has historically accounted for less than half of 1% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Yet the country’s topography and poor infrastructure make it “one of the most climate-vulnerable countries in the world.”

“The imbalance indicates that all countries must come together and devise not only solutions for climate change, but also climate justice measures that keep the principles of fairness and accountability at the fore,” the HRCP said. “Providing reparations to climate change is the bare minimum, for which global leaders must be held accountable.”

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg has accused her own country’s politicians of ignoring the climate crisis, calling the floods in Pakistan “a very clear example” of the risks of “focusing completely on other things”.

He told Reuters news agency that politicians and the media have “chosen not to communicate that so many of the crises we are experiencing now are closely intertwined.”

Last week, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres also called on the world to stop “sleep walking” during the climate crisis.

Guterres was due to visit flood-affected areas in Pakistan later this week. Pakistani officials said he would travel to Sindh, but it was not immediately clear whether the UN chief would visit Mohenjo-daro to see efforts to save the archaeological site.

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