Communities affected by one of the most damaging disasters in Pakistan's history worry that more extreme weather events will come as the earth's climate changes.

Naraan, Pakistan - In 2010, an unusual burst of heavy monsoon rain combined with melting glaciers in the mountains of northern Pakistan triggered a super flood that affected more than 20 million people and caused 1,600 deaths.

The floods submerged about one-fifth of Pakistan spanning Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab, Sindh, and Balochistan provinces. All manner of infrastructure was pulverized, leaving millions without homes, hospitals, and schools.

“It was one of the most horrific scenes I have ever experienced,” recalls Mohammad Sajjad, a 30-year-old farmer in Dirsari village, which was inundated. “I still remember the noisy cloud bursts and incessant rain. The river kept swelling until it started to swallow homes near the bank and wash away the roads.”

"The small suspension bridge connecting my village with the road on the other side of the river was surrounded with water and we had no idea how to deal with the situation other than to just huddle together and pray."

Rebuilding after the flood

The Asian Development Bank responded to the situation by joining with the World Bank and other development partners to assess the damage and reconstruction needs. This was followed by a $650 million emergency loan and a $4 million technical assistance grant to meet urgent needs.

“This road is our lifeline. It allows tourists from the rest of Pakistan and from abroad to visit Naraan in the summer, which is the mainstay of our livelihood.”

Muhammad Saleem

The Flood Emergency Reconstruction Project rebuilt roads and bridges to climate change-resilient standards and undertook flood protection projects to help communities return to normal – and prepare for the extreme weather events that climate change could bring in future.

The assistance enabled the government to rebuild 347 kilometers of national highways across the country to higher standards and improve 923 kilometers of provincial roads in Sindh province. This allowed millions of families to resume work and business activities. The assistance also rehabilitated about 2 million hectares of agricultural land through the rebuilding of embankments, canals, and drainage systems.

Road to market

The Naraan road was one of the damaged thoroughfares rebuilt under the project. The road leads to a popular tourist resort valley in the western Himalayas, and is used by farmers to get their goods to market.

“For my family, transporting our potatoes and turnips to Mansehra and Islamabad is how we make money to buy fuel and supplies to survive the harsh winter,” says Sajjad. “Our vegetables now reach markets in Islamabad in 7 to 8 hours. When the road was in bad condition, it would take over 12 hours and the cost of transportation was higher.”

For Muhammad Saleem, 33, who runs a roadside eatery, the improved road is a chance to serve tourists and travelers the freshly caught trout from a pond he maintains near his restaurant.

“This road is our lifeline,” he says. “It allows tourists from the rest of Pakistan and from abroad to visit Naraan in the summer, which is the mainstay of our livelihood.”

Saleem’s life has improved due to the repaired road, but he worries about the extreme weather his family could face in the future.

“Untimely and heavy rains as well as snowfall have become routine now,” he says. “It makes life here very unpredictable.”