Water Crises – A Real Threat
Pakistan, ever since its inception in 1947, is confronted with so many issues and problems and water scarcity is of them. Pakistan is part of 36 countries that are water-stressed. Experts are of the opinion that Pakistan is approaching the scarcity threshold for water.
Pakistan is also running short of freshwater at an alarming rate, and authorities anticipate that it is likely to suffer a shortage of 31 million acre-feet (MAF) of water by 2025.
The shortfall can be devastating for a country in the near future with an agriculture-based economy if the country’s water crisis largely goes unaddressed.
According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Pakistan ranked third among the countries facing severe water shortage. In May 2018, the Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources (PCRWR) announced that by 2025, there will be very little or no clean water available in the country.
Pakistan – A Water Stressed Country
To be water-stressed is a condition where the demand for water exceeds the available supply. Pakistan and India are among the 17 most water-stressed countries worldwide.
Water scarcity has particularly emerged as a highly critical and contentious issue within South Asia, one of the world’s most dynamic regions and home to nearly 1.9 billion people.
At present, the total water storage capacity of Pakistan is 14 million acre-feet (MAF), whereas its annual consumption requirement stands at 117 MAF. Due to a lack of storage, as much as over 10 MAF of water goes into the sea every year.
The issue of water resource depletion and mismanagement is particularly acute in India and Pakistan. The region’s aquifers number among the world’s “most stressed,” and the impacts of worsening climate change have engendered water supply uncertainties.
The problem, however, is further aggravated by tense bilateral relationships and lackluster institutional responses on either side of the border.
There exist certain joint mechanisms such as India-Pakistan Indus Waters Treaty of 1960 and India-Bangladesh Ganges Water Sharing Treaty of 1996 for effective distribution and use of available water resources but long-standing and seemingly intractable regional historical border disputes are continuously putting a strain on these agreements.
For instance, there has always been a concern over the potential revocation of the Indus Water Treaty and Pakistan has time and again accused India of utilizing the water from Indus, Chenab, and Jhelum for industrial activity in violation of the treaty, which in its present form only permits water usage of electricity generation.
On the other hand, India continues to question the neutrality of certain arbitrating bodies working in favor of Pakistan’s interests.
At present, there are only two major dams in Pakistan – Tarbela, and Mangla. The former was built in 1977, and its storage capacity has dropped to 6.4 MAF against the earlier 9.4 MAF. However, following a structure-raising project, the capacity of the Mangla Dam has been increased by 3 MAF to 7.4 MAF.
Reasons Behind the Prevailing Water Crises in Pakistan
- Burden of history
- long-standing regional as well as terrestrial disputes
- Divide and Rule policy of British Commonwealth
- Non-implementation of existing water treaties
- Unplanned use of available water resources
- Population explosion
- Climate factor such as flooding, melting of glaciers
- No construction of water reservoirs following the rising requirement of water
- Poor water taxation policy
- Poorly managed and unplanned housing colonies
- Water intensive crops
- Overuse of groundwater
- wastage of water
- Outdated canal system
- Use of outdated irrigation practices
- Silting of dams
- No effective water policies at the national level
- Lack of effective regional cooperation on water-related problems
Suggestions for avoiding the future scarcity of water
- Construction of more dams on a fast-track basis
- Early completion of Mohmand Dam and Diamer-Basha Dam
- Feasibility study of the small, short but effective water reservoirs
- Maximum cultivation and growth of water-extensive crops
- Use of drip irrigation systems
- Use of Sprinkler irrigation system
- Policy formation and implementation to avoid the growing risk of drought and water shortages due to a changing climate and a growing population.
- Effective management of water leakage issues by new resources and techniques such as satellite imaging, drones, and even acoustic equipment to find and fix more leaks.
- Water taxation for industrial use
- Conservation of water – a national asset
- Public awakening regarding domestic water conservation through media campaigns and local government machinery.
- Inclusion of water-related chapters in the coursework of children nationwide
- Utilizing sustainable drainage systems
- Desilting of available water storage infrastructure
- Formation and execution of local government level water conservation and water-utilization plans
- Save water before it’s too late.