Bangladesh population

In Pakistan’s hottest city, summers force half the population out

JACOBABAD: Every year, Mujeeb Rehman Kharani leaves his home in Jacobabad, in Pakistan’s southern province of Sindh, at the start of the summer season, joining tens of thousands of others who flee a city considered one of the hottest on earth.

Between May and August, temperatures soar to 50 degrees Celsius and nearly half of the city’s 200,000 residents leave, local government officials said. A 2020 study from Loughborough University said Jacobabad had “crossed the lethal threshold of heat that the human body can withstand”. Exposure to such heat for a few hours can lead to organ failure or even death.

These temperatures also threaten the continuation of activities of daily living, including work and productivity.

“During the summers, work opportunities dwindle, which forces me and many others to migrate,” Kharani, 26, told Arab News, saying he mainly went to Quetta. , the provincial capital of Balochistan, where temperatures were significantly lower and where it was possible to work, even in the hot season.

To earn as little as $3 a day working on construction sites, Kharani is separated for months from his wife and three children. “It’s almost impossible to bear the expense of keeping my family with me,” he said.

Allah Noor, 54, also leaves his home for the same reason.

“In Jacobabad, I work in brick kilns,” he said. “But in hot summers it’s almost impossible to work.”

Liza Khan, a 23-year-old content writer, said she was unable to earn money for the four months due to the unbearable heat associated with the power outages.

“Through my content writing, I earn up to Rs 80,000 ($450) per month. However, during the extremely hot months of May, June, July and August, I cannot work,” she told Arab News. “How can you work when you face power outages for up to 10 hours a day?”

Jacobabad’s inability to cope with extreme weather conditions has pushed it into a vicious cycle, as increased energy use during the summer drives deforestation, which only exacerbates the effects of rising the heat.

“In the presence of power shedding and no gas coverage, the remnants of forest and vegetation are cut down by the locals,” Jacobabad district administration official Ghulam Abbas Sadhayo told Arab News. “The heat intensity has increased here in recent years,” he said, attributing the problem to climate change, as “Pakistan is one of the major countries facing the consequences of global warming.”

In addition to heat-related labor losses, the Jacobabad case also highlights the impact of mass summer migration on education in the region.

A 2018 study by the Shifa Welfare Association, a local nongovernmental organization, showed that teachers were also leaving the city, its executive director Gul Buledi told Arab News.

“The report suggests that 70% of schools, mostly for girls, have been closed in Jacobabad district,” Buledi said. “Government authorities are turning a blind eye to the situation.”