Published Date: May 11, 2016
Underground water extraction can affect agriculture
At a workshop on climate change, Dr Patrick Shea said that Pakistan needs to categorise its water resources on an emergency basis.
He said continued extraction of underground water could cause the surface of the ground to sink and would affect agriculture.
He added that the melting of glaciers can lead to depletion of water resources.
Dr Shea is a research professor of biology at the University of Utah and the former director of the Bureau of Land Management.
Technological advancements have made it possible to predict water quantity, says US professor
He was speaking at a workshop on the ‘Relevance of Environmental Laws to Coping Climate Change’, organised by the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) on Tuesday.
Dr Shea said technological advancements have made it possible to understand and predict water quantity.
“Three basic things which need to be analysed are availability of drinking water, amount of healthy water and predictions about the quantity of water in future,” he said.
Using the metaphor of five blind men defining an elephant each according to his own understanding, he likened the Himalayan range to the ‘elephant’ and governments and policymakers in South and Southeast Asia to the ‘blind men’ describing their part of the elephant.
“There is need for an integrated approach to move forward. China, Vietnam, Burma, Pakistan, Indian policymakers are not sharing information, so there is little integrating of information.
“There is need of bringing educated people of the region together, as 95pc of the water [from this region is shared],” he said.
Former ambassador Shafqat Kakakhel said Pakistan started out as a water affluent country, with 5,500 cubic metres per person per annum. Per capita availability has receded by 1,000 cubic metres since.
“The major reason behind this is the increase in population, as we were 32 million in 1947 but now population of the country has reached to 190 million,” he said.
There was protection on the drawing of water until the 1960s and 1970s. Under the Indus Water Treaty, 3,000 tubewells were installed in Pakistan to compensate for the loss of water coming from the eastern rivers.
Since then the use of tubewells has grown exponentially, reaching more than 1 million today.
“There is no regulatory mechanism. Landlords believe that groundwater belongs to them and they have the right to mine it,” he said.
Tariq Banuri, the economics professor at Utah University, said Pakistan needs to protect its available surface water, protect and preserve groundwater and develop institutions for policy framework and regulations.
The secretary of the climate change ministry, Syed Abu Ahmad Akif, said Pakistan is among the top seven countries most vulnerable to climate change.
Pakistan is also falling short of its water requirements, and does not have the resources to convert seawater to drinkable water.