In Conversation with Shafqat Kakakhel Internal Water Management Practices
Q: What are the major water-related challenges of Pakistan?
A: Clearly the drastic decline in the per capita availability of fresh water in Pakistan, from 5300 cubic meters in 1951 to less than 1000CM at present, which places it in the category of water scarce countries must be regarded as our biggest water challenge. The drivers of this steep decline are explosive population growth and unregulated urbanization, economic development, which has led to an increase in the number of wasteful consumers of water, decaying water infrastructure, profligate use of water for irrigation, policy and governance deficits, including low water pricing and poor coordination among water-related institutions at both the federal and provincial levels.
The inordinate delay in the finalization of a water policy, despite the preparation of a well prepared draft, highlights the inexplicable indifference of our political system to the existential threats related to water resources.
A unique feature of our water resource situation is the excess versus deficit syndrome, which is due to seasonal variability – 80% of our water supply from the monsoon rains comes during the four summer months, creating an unmanageable surfeit, whilst there is a serious shortfall during the rest of the year. Our extremely meager storage capacity estimated at 14 million acre feet( MAF) means we can barely meet our fresh water contingencies for 30 days!
Inter-provincial disparities in availability of and access to water are another somewhat unique feature of our water woes. There is adequate supply of water in KP from rivers and lakes, but it is not available to large areas of the province due to geophysical constraints and insufficient infrastructure. The water challenges of Sindh result from its position as a lower riparian in the Indus Basin and its large desert and semi-desert areas. Baluchistan is also predominantly arid, receives insufficient rainfall, has limited access to the Indus Basin, and its water infrastructure projects have been plagued by corruption and mismanagement.
The most serious water-related challenge of Pakistan is the poor quality of water. According to a recent study entitled “Provision of Safe Drinking Water”, prepared by the Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources (PCRWR), 84% of the country’s population does not have access to safe drinking water. 72% of the water supply schemes are dysfunctional and 84% of water supplied to citizens is unfit for consumption. All the 15 lakes in the Punjab province are heavily polluted. Water-borne diseases are endemic in both urban and rural areas. Half of all hospital beds in Pakistan are reportedly occupied by people afflicted by diseases linked to poor quality of water. The deterioration of the quality of drinking water in rural areas is largely due to excessive use of chemical fertilizers and excessive abstraction of groundwater. Unless remedial measures are adopted on urgent basis, a catastrophic health crisis cannot be avoided.Please follow the link for more information.
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The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint or stance of SDPI.