2. Relation of the water crisis and national unity
3. An overview of the water crisis and its underlying causes
- Administrative causes
- Political Causes
- Agricultural causes
- Social Causes
4. Impacts of the water crisis on National Unity
a. Impacts on peace
- Kashmir issue
- Recognition of Indus Water Treaty by India
- Conflict in the Bering Sea
- Conflict in the Middle East over water resources
- Pakistan-Afghanistan Water Issue
- Conflicts by subnational groups
- Conflicts among federating units
- Conflicts on dam construction
- Conflicts between the agricultural and industrial sector
- Mass rebellion in case of water shortage
b. Impacts on the economy
- Cost of water wastage and water pollution
- The burden on energy production
- Impact on commercial services and goods
- Water- crucial to run industries
- Impact on trade and agriculture
c. Impacts on food sustainability
- Endemic droughts
- Contaminated water
- Low crop yield
5. Need to address the water crisis to ensure national unity
a. Measures at the political level
- The need for political consensus on water issues
- Need to amend sacrosanct water agreements
- The need for active water cooperation among states
b. Measures at the agricultural level
- Mapping of water sector development goals with SDGs
- Sustainable use of water
- Adoption of conservative agricultural methods
- Agriculture taxation system
- Canal Lining
c. Measures at the administrative level
- Developing cost-effective water disinfection and filtration plants
- Increase in the number of water reservoirs
- Sensitization of the issue
- Accountability of the industrial sector
Essay on Water Crisis and National Unity
‘Thousands have lived without love, not one without water…’ Puts W. H Auden
Water is essential for all dimensions of life. The use of water has increased over the past few decades but water availability is falling to crisis levels in many parts of the world. From Cape Town to Flint, Michigan, and from rural, Sub Saharan African to Asia’s teeming mega-cities water crisis is everywhere. More than one billion people now lack access to clean drinking water and the UN predicts a 40pc water deficit worldwide by 2030. Water crisis on such a gigantic level can easily disrupt the lives of individuals.
And not only on the individual level, but the crisis of basic elements like water also affects the economy, industry, peace, and society thus endangering the unity of a nation.
A nation stands united when its economy is sound; peace is prevalent; food is plentiful and the public is prosperous. And the crisis of water can affect these all putting the unity of any nation on the verge of collapse. The lack of cost-effective water supply options can put severe pressure on all water users, whether corporates, governments, or individuals, leading to tensions, and possibly aggression. In the case of Pakistan as well, experts are falsely predicting that it will go water-scarce by 2025 because, for all intents and purposes, it’s already water-scarce.
Water scarcity is not only hitting nations rather every continent is facing it as it was listed in 2015 by the World Economic Forum as the largest global risk in terms of potential impacts over the next decade. The crisis of water is evident by partial or no satisfaction of expressed demand, economic competition for water quantity or quality, the dispute between users, irreversible depletion of groundwater and, negative impacts on the environment. As of now, half a billion people face severe water scarcity globally all year round.
At the national level, its repercussions can be felt in half of the world’s largest cities. Pakistan has also unfortunately been included in the 36 most water-stressed countries and the reasons for this crisis are multifarious. At the administrative level, Pakistan is starkly lagging behind other nations in improving its storage capacity, management and ensuring the availability of clean drinking water.
Lack of political consensus, potential national strategies, and idleness of parliamentarians is turning the nation into a dystopia, where some, equipped with electric tube wells, desperately search for the last drop of groundwater, while others find themselves at the mercy of rapacious water mafias. The words pronounced by South Asian Scholar Anatol Lieven in 2007, sound prophetic that water storage poses ‘the greatest threat to the viability of Pakistan as a state and a society’.
Conventional irrigation methods like flood irrigation, water-guzzling crops, a lackadaisical approach to maintain and repairing aging, and a distorted water pricing regime are further aggravating the water crisis.
Water shortage may also be caused by climate change, such as altered weather patterns including droughts or floods, increased pollution, and increased human demand and overuse of water. Unwary wastage of water at household and use of potable water for household chores is turning scarcity of this national endowment into crisis.
The water crisis ensued by all these causes is not without its potential impacts on the unity and peace of nations. A comprehensive online database of water-related conflicts by the Pacific Institute lists violence over water going back nearly 5000 years. These conflicts occur over both fresh water and saltwater, and both between and within nations.
A horrible instance of interstate conflicts because of the water crisis is the Kashmir issue between India and Pakistan. The butchery in the state of Kashmir is persistent for more than seven decades because the most crucial element for life-water flows from the upper riparian state of Kashmir to lower the riparian state of Pakistan.
The weaponization of water on the part of India was seen when it opted to reignite the controversy over water resources thus transgressing the Indus Water Treaty. Apart from violating the flow of Pakistani rivers, India has also vowed to block the spillovers of Ravi, Sutlej, and Beas which trickles down in Pakistan. Such an estrangement on water resources can easily escalate into atomic war endangering nations.
Bering Sea dispute, Jordan River Conflict among Israel, Lebanon, Jordan and the state of Palestine, in Africa (Nile River related conflicts among Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan, as well as in Central Asia (the Aral
Sea conflict among Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan) reveal the threat water crisis pose to peace and unity of nations.’ It is now commonly said that future wars are more likely to be fought over water than oil’, said Lester R. Brown at a previous Stockholm Water Conference.
Besides life, water is necessary for proper sanitation, commercial services, and the production of commercial goods. Thus numerous types of parties can become implicated in a water dispute making it an intrastate dispute endangering national unity. For instance, resentment on the part of subnational groups arising out of the non-availability of water will have serious implications for national unity.
Another instance of the intrastate conflicts over water resources can be interprovincial disputes as in the case of Pakistan. The four federating units are dissatisfied with the unequal distribution of water by the Water Apportionment Accord of 1991. The accord apportioned the water of the Indus between the provinces and has been a bone of contention ever since. Such resentment on the part of provinces should not be taken lightly after the bad experience of the secession of East Pakistan.
The broad spectrum of water disputes makes national unity even more vulnerable. The disharmony among federating units and groups of Pakistan on the construction of dams, conflicts between agricultural and industrial sector over the distribution of water, the threat of mass rebellion, and refugee crisis because of water shortage can be a serious blow to the national unity of Pakistan.
The economy is the backbone of a nation. Severe water scarcity can cause a death blow to the economy of any nation. In the case of Pakistan, it costs nearly 4pc of GDP, says World Bank. The Indus River System Authority has disclosed that Pakistan wastes away about $21 billion worth of water in the sea each year.
Huge economic loss is incurred in Pakistan because of water pollution. It is not only a public health hazard but also puts pressure on the economy in the shape of water disinfection and filtration plants.
There is another unheeded consequence of water scarcity that can result in a literally powerless nation.
Water is vital for nearly every type of energy generation. In the past five years, more than 50pc of the world’s power utility and energy companies have experienced water-related business impacts. Besides, both public and private sector entities are facing crucial impacts of this infinite resource turning into a finite one. Its scarcity will affect goods production and commercial services.
As a resource, some consider water to be as valuable as oil because its shortage can cripple an industry just as it can cripple a population, and affect developed nations as well as less-developed nations. Water-based industries are more visible in water disputes, but commerce at all levels can be damaged by lack of water.
Water viability as a commercial resource can have devastating impacts on fishing, manufacturing, recreation, and tourism. Apart from this, agriculture, which accounts for about 70pc of global water withdrawal, is constantly competing with domestic, industrial, and environmental uses for scarce water supply, according to the International Water Management Institute.
The impact of the water crisis on agriculture is not without further ramifications. The endemic droughts in Baluchistan are one such example. Food availability is getting pathetically low damaging the health of people. Not only food sustainability rather per capita availability hovers around 1000 cubic meters and left out water is unfit for consumption. Over 53000 children that die every year from water-borne diseases, according to UNICEF learn this in the most tragic way. More than two-thirds of Pakistan’s households drink contaminated water, according to UNICEF.
Research conducted by Global Change Impact Studies Centre, a climate monitoring institution, shows wheat yield in Pakistan could drop 8% to 10% and rice productivity may fall 15% to 20% by the turn of the century. This decline can spark food shortages, which in turn, could prove catastrophic for a country like Pakistan.
Such a serious threat to the national unity and existence of states needs remedial measures at war footing. There are various solid initiatives that can be taken to minimize the severity of this crisis. At the political level, strong political will and selfless consensus, and cooperation on management, distribution, and reservoir issues can yield fruitful results.
A nation critically intimidated by a water crisis like Pakistan needs to revisit its sacrosanct water pacts to improve their effectiveness, efficiency, and implementation. In addition to this, a recent report ‘ Water Cooperation for Secure World’ published by Strategic Foresight Group concludes that active water cooperation between countries reduces the risk of war hence eliminating a threat to national unity.
Potential reforms in the agriculture sector can be the synchronization of water sector development goals with SDGs to improve their pace and effectiveness. Tough decisions will need to be made about changing the public policies that have exacerbated the water woes. Although the latest National Water policy is a ray of hope yet something more should be done to ensure sustainable use of water and increasing the current water efficiency by switching from conventional to conservative agricultural methods.
There should be an efficient agricultural taxation system. As of now, the taxes from agriculture currently contribute less than 0.1% of the total tax revenue. Technological measures to reduce seepage and percolation losses in irrigation include the lining of canals and watercourses and promoting modern irrigation technologies such as pipes, sprinklers, and drip systems.
Measures were taken at an administrative level such as the development of cost-effective water disinfection and filtration plants, an increase in the number of water reservoirs. The nation’s need stands at 25 MAF of water and a new dam would be required every ten years.
Sensitization of the issue through social media will create a civic sense and responsibility at the individual, societal, national, and global levels. Then all the entities through private or public should be held accountable if they sinfully waste such precious commodity causing death blow to the existence of the nation.
To sum up, it is the need of the hour to sense the horrific impact that the water crisis can put on the unity of the nation. In the case of Pakistan, the looming threat is more visible but its repercussions for any nation cannot be denied at all. It can cause a serious blow to the economy, peace, food sustainability, society, and individual life of any nation. So the nations need to come together to save this shared resource of supreme importance.
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