DADU, Pakistan – The view from Mr Muhammad Jaffar’s small, mud brick home in southern Pakistan used to bring him a sense of relief. Rolling fields of green cotton shrubs had started just steps from his door, their white blooms offering the promise of enough income for his family to survive the year.
Now his fields, along with other vast swathes of Pakistan, are under green, putrid water. About two weeks ago, in one of the latest rounds of record-shattering flooding that has afflicted the country since June, his land was completely submerged, including his well for drinking water.
“We are living on an island now,” Mr Jaffar, 40, told visiting New York Times journalists on Tuesday.
The devastating floods have inundated hundreds of villages across much of Pakistan’s fertile land. In Sindh province in the south, the floodwater has effectively transformed what was once farmland into two large lakes that have engulfed entire villages and turned others into fragile islands.
The flooding is the worst to hit the country in recent history, according to Pakistani officials. They warn that it may take three to six months for the floodwaters to recede.
So far, around 1,500 people have died – nearly half of whom are children – and more than 33 million have been displaced from their homes by the floods, which were caused by heavier-than-usual monsoon rains and glacial melt.
Scientists say global warming caused by greenhouse-gas emissions is sharply increasing the likelihood of extreme rain in South Asia, home to one-quarter of humanity. And they say there is little doubt that it made this year’s monsoon season more destructive.
In Dadu district, one of the worst hit areas in Sindh province in southern Pakistan, the floodwater has completely submerged roughly 300 villages and marooned scores of others. Across the province, around 100,000 sq km of land – about the size of the state of Virginia – is now underwater, officials say.
Where farmers once tilled fields of cotton and wheat, wooden motorboats now chug across the festering pond ferrying people between towns that were saved from the brunt of the flooding and their stranded villages.
Scattered across the water are single sandals, medicine bottles and the bright blue books of elementary students that spill out from the windows of half-submerged schools.
Swarms of mosquitoes dance around the tree tops poking out from the water. Power lines dangle precariously close to its surface.
Tens of thousands of people whose homes were destroyed have been displaced to nearby towns and cities where they have found shelter in schools, public buildings, and along the roadside and canal embankments. They take refuge in tents cobbled together with spare tarps and rope beds they salvaged before the flood came.
Among the lucky few whose villages were not completely submerged, many have remained in their homes – effectively marooned.