- Water crisis – number one global risk based upon its impact on society
(World Economic forum 2015).
- Water Scarcity – a nightmare scenario for Pakistan, despite it having the world’s largest
- Pakistan being a single basin country is facing challenges of water scarcity.
- Pakistan among the 36 most water stressed countries.
- Overview of the Current Situation of water crisis in Pakistan.
2.1 IMF report throwing light on the severity of Pakistan’s water crisis.
(a) Pakistan has the world’s 4th highest rate of water use.
(b) Pakistan is the 3rd water stressed country in the world.
(c) The aquifer in the Indus basin is the 2nd most stressed in the world.
- Water Vision 2025.
(3.1) In 2009, the Running on Empty study projected that Pakistan’s water shortfall could be 5 times the amount of water stored in Indus reservoirs.
- Causes of water crisis in Pakistan.
(4.1) International causes ‘Water terrorism by India’.
(a) Violation of Indus water Treaty by India.
(i) Construction of Wullar barrage on River Jhelum.
(ii) Construction of Buglihar Dam on River Chenab.
(iii) Kishanganga project on river Neelam.
(b) China’s mega water diversion scheme and its impact on the flow of river Indus and Satluj.
(4.2) National Causes.
(a) Delay in the construction of dams and water reservoirs (Pakistan’s total dam storage is 30 days of average demand whereas the figure is 220 days for India.
(i) Kalabagh Dam – a controversial issue.
(b) Rapid population growth and urbanization
(i) Country is among the world’s top 6 most popular states and as per the UN report, projected to have a population of 300 million by 2050 causing a threat to sustainability of water resources.
(c) Financial constraints
(d) Inefficient water policy making and lock of proper management of water resources by the government.
(i) Agricultural sector is untaxed and more than 90 pc of Pakistan’s water resources are allocated to that sector.
(ii) Unavailability of safe drinking water to the entire population.
(iii) Tarbela, Mangla and Chashma reservoirs have lost about 5 million acre-feet due to sedimentation.
(iv) An estimated 40% of water that run through canals is lost because of seepage.
(4.3) Natural causes
(i) Increase in the global warming and melting of glaciers.
(a) On average, glaciers currently lose between 50 to 150 cm of thickness every year that is 2 to 3 times more than the average of the 20th century.
- Consequences of Water Crisis.
(5.1) Global Impacts.
(a) Threat of nuclear war between India and Pakistan on the water issue. i.e; India uses water as weapon against Pakistan in IWT agreement conflict in 2016.
(a) Water wars among provinces (Escalating tensions between Punjab and Sindh).
(b) Severe episodes of droughts leading to the devastation of agriculture.
(i) Water logging and salinity is increasing as a result of installing more and more tube wells in order to overcome the shortage of dams.
(c) Loss of habitat and devastation of tourism industry leading toward unemployment and Economy.
(d) Sewerage disposal issue resulting in pollution
(e) Lesser availability of clean drinking water (arsenic poisoning)
(f) Importation of water at high rates.
- Water management strategies
(6.1) International Level
(a) Pakistan should take the issue to International court of Justice in order to urge India not to make dams on Western rivers.
(6.2) At National Level
(a) Construction of dams and improvement of existing canal system.
(i) Construction of Kalabagh Dam [It will create a reservoir with usable storage capacity of 6.1 MAF].
(ii) Raising Mangla Dam, Gomal Dam, Satpara dam, and Sabakzai Dam should be the top priority.
(iii) Canlas should be cemented in order to stop the seepage of water.
(iv) Creation of Think tank (planning commission, HEC, universities, PEC) for water Resources Development and Management.
(b) Water pricing reforms tariff reform is critical to ensure sustainable water use as canal water is heavily underpriced.
(c) Bringing the agriculture within the tax net.
(i) Agriculture in Pakistan is largely untaxed more than 90% of Pakistan’s water resources are allocated to this sector.
(d) Sufficient and sincere political will is required to implement water pricing reforms.
(e) Nationwide campaign to raise awareness.
(i) Regarding less water intensive crop production exp drip irrigation system should be adopted.
(ii) Optimum crop rotation should be encouraged.
- Public consensus on national issue to defeat the nefarious aims of enemies.
- Provinces should reform the agriculture taxation system in the context of NFC award in order
to entrance the political interest of powerful land owners.
- Control of excessive groundwater exploitation is imperative.
Water is the most precious natural resource in the world. Without it there would be no life on earth. Unfortunately, water is becoming scarce and there are various factors leading to this scarcity. According to a report of world economic forum, water crisis is the number of one global risk based upon the devastation it is likely to create. Particularly in Pakistan the situation is alarming as Pakistan, though, bestowed with the world’s largest glacial resources is facing the prospect of water crisis. The expected demand and supply imbalance is creating challenges on the domestic, agricultural and industrial level as Pakistan’s water availability is heavily relied upon Indus Basin.
Water crisis is a nightmare scenario, that is all too real but inevitable for Pakistan. According to a recent IMF report, Pakistan is among the 36 most water stressed countries in the world. It has the world’s 4th highest rate of water use. Its water intensity rate measured as per unit of GDP is the world’s highest. Pakistan is also the 3rd most water stressed country in the world. According to New Nasa Satellite data of world’s underground aquifers, The aquifer in the Indus basin is the second most stressed in the world. In 2009, The Running of Empty study projected that by 2050. Pakistan’s water shortfall would be 5 times the amount of water that could be stored in the Indus river’s vast reservoir. Federal Minister of Water and Power, Khuwaja Asif has also warned that scarcity of water is another issue looming on Pakistan.
Water terrorism on the part of India is a major reason of Pakistan’s water crisis. India has constructed two hydro electric projects on river Neelam and called Kishanganga in Indian dialect. The Baglihar dam on Chenab permits the agreed quota of water flow to Pakistan despite Pakistan sought the help of World Bank to stop its construction. Wullar barrage has been constructed at the mouth of Wullar lake on river Jhelum. Pakistan believes that the construction of dams could be used as a geostrategic weapon as India can control the flow of Rivers. Moreover, Indian project on Wullar lake also has the potential of disrupting the triple canal Lover Bari Doab Canal. Further, China’s Mega Water Diversion scheme is also a source of concern for Pakistan as it could stop the flaw of water to river Indus and Satluj which is a tributary of Indus River.
Delay in the construction of dams and reservoirs are also creating a threat to the amount of water available for household consumption and for agricultural and industrial use. Pakistan’s total dam capacity is 30 days of the average demand whereas the figure is 1000 days for Egypt and 220 days for India. Construction of Kalabagh dam has been delayed and the reason for its delay is the bitter controversy among the four provinces. The only province in favor of its construction is Punjab. When completed, the dam would create a reservoir with usable storage capacity of 6.1 Million acre-feet (MAF). Moreover, despite the two ground-breaking ceremonies of Diamer-Bhasha dam by the successive governments, developmental work on the life saving project could not be started. Financial constraints accompanied with the lack of resources, infrastructure and political will among the leaders are some key factors which do not let the construction of dams, barrages and reservoirs in Pakistan.
Rapidly growing population along with urbanization are also some significant factors leading towards water scarcity. Pakistan is among the world’s top 6 most populous states as per the UN report, and is projected to have a population of about 300 million by the end of 2050 which has threatened the sustainability of water resources. The rapid increase in population is leading toward escalated demand of water and food resources and leading toward the depletion of natural resources.
Weak administration and poor water management are also causing water scarcity. It is the lack of effective policy making on the part of government that agriculture sector in Pakistan is largely untaxed. And more than 90% of Pakistan’s water resources are allocated to this sector. Moreover, traditional and antiquated agriculture techniques are leading towards 50 to 60% loss of water. Water intensive crops like rice and sugarcane are being cultivated without taking into account the optimum crop rotation. This inefficient water distribution is creating water shortages and has forced people to use unhygienic water for daily consumption.
The gradual loss in saving capacities of the existing reservoirs is also contributing to water scarcity. Tarbela, Mangla and Chashma reservoirs have lost about 5 million acre-feet, that is, 2.5% of their water saving capacity due to heavy sedimentation carried by the rivers. The canal beds are either unlined or poorly lined and 40 % of water that runs through canals is lost because of seepage. Increase in the global warming is a major reason of melting of glaciers. On average, glaciers currently lose between 50 to 150 cm thickness every year. Pakistan is sandwiched between China and India, the first and third largest emitters of carbon de oxide gas Co2 respectively. Glaciers are a major source of water supply for Pakistan, however, according to a study glaciers in Pakistan are melting continuously because of rising temperature and. By the year 2050, the country will no longer posses water reserves in the form of glaciers.
Water terrorism on the part of India is posing the threat of a nuclear war between the two rivals. Border between India and Pakistan is considered the most stressed border in the world. Any war between these two rivals is going to have negative repercussions on not only the south Asian region but also on the entire Asian continent. Hence, the water issue between the two neighbors has the potential to bring the entire region to the brink of major disaster, that is, the possibility of a nuclear war.
The short term implications of water crisis are already visible as tensions are escalating among provinces. The level of distrust, pertaining to the distribution of water, is increasing between Punjab and Sindh. Open Chashma-Jehlum canal to meet Punjab’s requirement has created tensions between the provinces in the past. Dispute could be resolved if the provinces show enough maturity in resolving the dispute amicably as they have done previously in resolving the dispute on National Fiancé Commission (NFC) award.
Water shortage is also contributing to an increase in water logging and salinity. Reduction in the dam storage capacity is leading toward lesser per-acre water availability. To cope with this problem farmers are installing more and more tube wells. That is why salinity has become a major issue in most parts of Punjab and Sindh. Sindh contributes significantly in the production of cash crops including cotton and rice, however, scarcity of water is adversely affecting the production and exports of these crops. Water tables are dropping drastically and the resultant pumping of water to meet increased water demands is increasing the cases of arsenic poisoning. Lesser availability of clean drinking water is giving birth to many parasitic diseases and deadly viruses such as dengue. Water reduction is also creating problems in sewerage disposal and hence increasing pollution and temperature.
Pakistani government has to take significant measures to cope with the looming threat of water crisis. Arbitration, reconciliation and dialogue are the best options to resolve the issue of water between the two neighbors. Although water commissioner level talks between India and Pakistan have failed during August last year as India did not budge on its design of Kishanganga dam and also refused to halt the construction of river Chenab. However, a fresh round of talks should be held and both neighbors should understand that nuclear war is not the solution of their problems.
At the national level, construction of new dams is vital to meet the constantly increasing water demand. Construction of Kalabagh dam is imperative as it will create a reservoir with useable storage of 6.1 million nacre-feet. Government should also its divert its attention toward the rapid construction of Daimer-Bhasha Dam, which when constructed would be able to store 8 MAF of water. Construction of such larger reservoirs is imperative to maintain the cultivation of water intensive crops in the fertile lands of Sindh and Punjab Raising the structure of Mangla dam, Gomal dam, Satpara dam and Sabakzai dam should be the top priority of the government. Capacity building and improvement of existing canal system is necessary as 40% of water that runs through canals is lost because of seepage of water.
Government should create a think tank including planning commission, Higher Education Commission, (HEC) and universities in order to improve water resource development and management Water prancing reforms should be introduced to ensure sustainable water use as canal water is heavily underpriced. Agriculture in Pakistan is predominantly irrigated (90 percent) and consumes about 95 percent of annually available surface water. Bringing the agriculture sector within the tax net will bring sufficient funds to build new dams and will help improving supply to the water stressed areas of Pakistan. Nationwide campaigns should be conducted to raise the importance of water saving by growing less water intensive crops and by encouraging optimum crop rotation.
Water is an engine to economic growth in Pakistan. The country has the necessary natural endowment and is blessed with the world’s most extensive irrigation system. What basically required is the public consensus to defeat the nefarious aims of the enemies. Provinces should reform the system of agricultural taxation to entrench the political interests of powerful landowners. Control of excessive ground water exploitation is also imperative in dealing with the looming threat of water crisis in Pakistan.
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