Our water woes
A severe water scarcity is knocking at our doors and will lead to disaster if action is not taken. No one denies the fact that water is an essential resource, but regrettably, this precious resource is being wasted because of mismanagement.
Excessive ground water extraction has been creating a lot of problems. As has been observed, salinized water in North and Southern Punjab is already making an appearance, as 90 per cent of underground water has been lost. The remaining 10 per cent contains high amounts of arsenic, as per the findings of the Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources (PCRWR).
Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) has highlighted that the water crisis challenges the country’s economy because of deforestation, soil erosion, silting, etc. Pakistan doesn’t have a water availability problem, rather it is a management problem.
The issue of the water crisis was highlighted after India constructed its own dams on Neelum River. The dams took 20 years to complete and Pakistan did nothing during this time. Research indicates that Pakistan will be in big trouble by 2025. The country already ranks third in terms of countries that are facing the world’s worst water shortages, as per the IMF, whereas a UNO report puts it on the 7th position.
Excessive groundwater consumption and inevitable global warming would further exacerbate the availability of water problem and in turn wreak havoc on the people in the country
PCRWR anticipates that owing to population explosion, urbanisation, colossal deforestation and other man-made activities, the country is likely to face serious problems if the water storage capacity is not enhanced.
UNDP observed that Pakistan spends 92 per cent of its water on agriculture, 3.3 per cent on industry whereas domestic use accounts for 2.5 per cent. Interestingly, the per capita water availability,which was over 5,000 cubic metres during 1940s, has plunged to 1,000 cubic metres per head. Presently, water storage capacity has been reduced to 30 days whereas India and USA have a 120- and 920-day capacity, respectively.
In the light of current scenario, the question is who responsible for this menace. What made the government falter when it comes to water? Why were no new dams or reservoirs made in the last 30 years?
Champions of democracy are busy in a tussle of power and pay no heed to these issues. Our existing dams are facing sedimentation, meaning that their storage capacity has fallen – will continue to shrink by 30 per cent by 2020. However, instead of addressing the falling quality of our underground water, our politicians are busy blaming India.
Myopic leadership futile policies have left Pakistan with only seven per cent of storage capacity. Instead of dams, out focus is on oil and LNG. The current chief justice is trying to hold people accountable, and his audacious move to build dams shows his patriotism. He is striving hard for consensus over polemic dams, directed to construct two others, which encompass Diamer Bhasha and Mohmand dam, the former has capacity of 4500 MW of electricity. Other dams such as the Katzara, Akhorhi and Dasu are all viable options.
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Stringent measures are the need of the hour to alleviate the water shortage. There is a dire need to create awareness among farmers pertaining to efficient methods of irrigation like sprinklers, basins and the drip irrigation system. Efforts ought to be there for reforestation,while deforestation must be castigated especially along the bank of rivers.
Agricultural research is also important; plant breeding, crop husbandry and hybrid seeds that proves to be drought resistant and consume less water unlike rice and sugarcane must be promoted. Goal six of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) also calls to ensure sustainable use of water and to increase its capacity by 20 per cent, by 2025.
The water issue is like a ticking tomb that can topple us at any time. It is high time we take it seriously, especially for future generations.
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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.