Why Pakistan Is Running dry

(Khizer Abbas, Bagh Azad Kashmir)

“The wars of 21st century will be fought over water”.
This statement was made by Ismail Serageldin; a former high-ranking executive at the World Bank and a renowned water security activist. The veracity of his assertion stands confirmed when one sees acute shortage of water faced by different countries of world nowadays.

Water crisis in Pakistan are worsening day by day. Pakistan could "run dry" by 2025 as its water shortage is reaching an alarming level. According to a recent report by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Pakistan ranks third in the world among countries facing acute water shortage. Researchers predict that Pakistan is on its way to becoming the most water-stressed country in the region by the year 2040. It is not the first time that development and research organizations have alerted Pakistani authorities about an impending crisis, which some analysts say poses a bigger threat to the country than terrorism says DW in its report on water issue in Pakistan.

The state of our water crisis becomes clearer when we consider that at the time of independence, Pakistan had almost 5,000 cubic metres of water per person, a number that has now gone down to only 1,000 cubic metres per person

Every one of our major cities is facing a severe water shortage. According to a recently published report by WAPDA, regarding the daily water requirement of our major cities, the figures stated were as follows:
Ø Islamabad needs 176m gallons per day but is only receiving 84m gallons.
Ø Karachi needs 1,100m gallons per day but is receiving 600m gallons.
Ø Peshawar needs 250m gallons but is receiving 126m gallons.
Ø Lahore needs 696m gallons but is receiving 484m gallons.
Ø Quetta needs 45m gallons but is receiving 28m gallons.
Ø Gawadar needs 17m gallons but is only receiving 12m gallons.

Change in Climate
Climate change is another factor contributing to decline of water provision as glaciers of the Hindu Kush-Karakorum-Himalaya mountains are lost and do not flow into the Indus Water basin. This decline has to be balanced against an increase in water demand owing to hotter season. Water will evaporate quicker leading to increasing water demand by irrigation sector. This will be coupled with decreased levels of soil moisture.

Outdated Irrigation System
More than 90 percent of Pakistan’s water resources are used in agriculture, which is much higher than the global average of 70 percent. The high consumption of water is blamed on outdated irrigation systems, loss of water during transmission, and the choice of crops. Pakistan mainly grows wheat, rice and sugar cane, which are all water intensive and some say the wrong choice for its agrarian economy.

An important reason behind water crisis is the excessive use of water without any mechanism to save it. There is a dire need to divide water into parts the way developed countries have mechanized their system. One part should be of clean water, which should be utilized for drinking and cooking, while the other part should be used for polluted or dirty water, which should be used for household needs.

Water Politics
In 1960, the World Bank brokered the Indus Water Treaty (IWT) that gives Pakistan exclusive rights to use the region's western rivers — Indus, Jhelum and Chenab — while India has the authority over three eastern river. New Delhi is building the Kishangaga hydroelectric plant in the north of Bandipore in India held Jammu and Kashmir region. Thus It is violating the Indus Water Treaty

Beside this construction Kala Bagh Dam, which was supposed to be a Magic bullet to all water problems faced by Pakistan, is stopped due to interior and exterior politics. It was also expected to produce 3,600 additional megawatts of electricity with low cost. The main opponents of Kalabagh dam mainly Sindh and KPK have lot of apprehensions pertaining to the construction of the dam.

Pakistan is heading towards desert state where people will fight for single drop of water and all provinces will fight for the shortage of water. If steps are not taken right away, it wouldn’t be long before the entire country experiences a drought-like situation like the one that was experienced in Thar district of Sindh province that killed around 828 children in a span of three years. Actions need to be taken to formulate water policies considering Construction of new Dams, management of water reservoirs and awareness among citizens regarding excessive use of water.

One hopes the policy makers’ wake up to the need of the hour!

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