Channel News Asia
Published Date: Mar 20, 2015
Pakistan on the brink of water crisis
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan could be heading towards its worst water shortage in the next few years. Experts have warned that a dwindling supply and bad resource management have led to the nation ‘s water woes.
Local residents in Islamabad also blame government inaction and politics for their water woes. Children ferrying water for their families’ needs are a common sight in Pakistan’s capital. A sizeable number of children in a slum Channel NewsAsia visited do not go to school. Instead, they are busy fetching water required for daily tasks and needs at home – for drinking, cooking, bathing and the toilet.
Several times each day, they walk nearly half a kilometre, sometimes carrying containers half their size to collect the scarce liquid from a water tank. Hundreds of people in the nearby areas depend on this single source for survival.
Although the government said it is trying to improve the living standards of the population, many remain unconvinced.
“The government doesn ‘t even look at us,” said Gulzar, a local resident. “To them, we are nothing but cattle. To them we just graze around and fend for ourselves. They want us to get lost; we have no facilities whatsoever.”
Another local resident, Sarfraz, said: “We hear on TV all this talk about funds coming in from abroad. But that aid never gets to us or improves our lives.”
The authorities have said they are working on a number of projects, such as the construction of dams to tackle the water crisis. But experts note that many of these projects have been in the pipeline for decades; and have accused the government of only working on projects that it can show off.
According to experts, an area is considered “water stressed” when the annual water supply falls below 1,700 cubic metres per person per year. That figure in Pakistan now stands at 1,000 cubic metres.
“We need water for food production,” said Shakeel Ramay, Senior Research Associate, Sustainable Development Policy Institute. “If we don’t have water, food security will be a major challenge in the future.”
He added: “As for the industrial sector, textiles are the backbone of our economy; cotton comes from the agriculture sector and agriculture is dependent on water. So we need to build dams to preserve water.”
But dams are a controversial issue in Pakistan. The proposed Kalabagh hydroelectric dam on the Indus River in Punjab was scrapped due to objections from various provinces.
Sindh province in the south, in particular, bitterly opposed the dam ‘s construction. Among other concerns, political parties in Sindh say the dam would reduce its share of the water that flows down the Indus River.
These obstacles have so far prevented the dam from being built – what proponents argue could be the answer to Pakistan’s water crisis. Until a sustainable and widely accepted solution is found, environmentalists warn that future droughts threaten the livelihoods and survival of millions in Pakistan.