Statistics show that water crisis is not just an issue in Pakistan but it is also becoming a worldwide issue. According to the statistics published in the United Nations World Water Development Report 2018, the worldwide demand for water has been growing at a rate of about 1.0 percent per year as a function of population growth, economic development and changing consumption patterns, among other factors, and it would continue to rise considerably over the next two decades.
The report also showed that the industrial and local demand for water would rise much faster than agricultural demand, although agriculture will remain the largest overall user. The vast majority of the rising demand for water will occur in states with developing or emerging economies. At the same time, the worldwide water cycle is intensifying because of weather change, with wetter regions usually becoming wetter and drier regions becoming even drier.
Experts also mentioned that at present, a predicted 3.6 billion people live in regions that are potentially water scarce at least 1.0 month per year, and this population could rise to some 4.8–5.7 billion by 2050. Furthermore, since the 1990s, water pollution has worsened in almost all rivers in Africa, Asia and Latin America. The deterioration of water quality is predicted to more escalate over the next decades and this would raise threats to human health, the environment and sustainable development.
Internationally, the most prevalent water quality issue is nutrient loading, which, depending on the region, is often associated with pathogen loading. Hundreds of chemicals are also impacting on water quality. The greatest rises in exposure to pollutants are predicted to occur in low- and lower middle income states, principally because of higher population and economic growth and the lack of wastewater management systems.
The water development report also explained that the number of people at risk from floods is predicted to grow from 1.2 billion currently to almost 1.6 billion in 2050. The population presently affected by land degradation/desertification and drought is estimated at 1.8 billion people, making this the most important category of ‘natural disaster’ based on mortality and socio-economic impact relative to gross domestic product (GDP) per capita.
Statistics also show that water scarcity currently will adversely affect Pakistan in the next couple of years if a National Water Policy (NWP) of the country is not adopted. Pakistan is still facing grave water problem as its population is predicted to rise up to 250 million by the year 2025 which would more reduce per-capita water availability.
The Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources (PCRWR) alerted the government that the country will run out of water by 2025 if no action is taken. According to ISRA (Indus river system authority), due to the less capacity of water storage, Pakistan wastes 30 million acre-feet water worth $21 billion yearly in the sea. Storage capacity of this country is just 15.75 million acre feet, which is equivalent to 30 days of consumption. Glaciers are also affected by the climate change, dams are essential to be built to conserve the amount of water that goes to sea.
The current daunting condition can lead a severe drought and the impact could be worse for an agricultural country like Pakistan. Expert of Pakistan urges that it is in need of a large amount of water supply for agricultural production; almost 70 percent of the world’s usable water is consumed in agriculture.
Under the 18th amendment water distribution for agriculture, local and industrial purposes became a provincial subject. This matter again needs approval from the CCI. In the country, chiefly, small farmers use sewage water for cultivation of vegetables which is causing a number of diseases and deaths. No doubt, water contamination is also a grave challenge, those regions which have easily availability have contaminated water. Because of rapid industrialization, drinking water quality is deteriorating every day.
Construction of dams
Different government sources identified that the need for construction of dams to meet the growing demand of water in Pakistan. With the construction of dams, wastage of rainy and flood water could be used appropriately. It is also said that the work on some reservoirs was in progress because of consensus among the stakeholders.
Sources also mentioned that the upgradation of Mangla Dam had been completed while the projects of Neelum-Jhelum and Diamer-Bhasha would be accomplished shortly. Moreover, in present months, the outgoing government has accepted many new projects counting Rs625 billion worth Diamer-Bhasha dam and Rs303 billion worth Mohmand dam. To carry out work on the Diamer-Bhasha dam, statistics show that the government would require at least Rs48 billion per annum for the upcoming 5 years.
I would like to mention here that our neighboring country India was involved in violation of Indus Waters Treaty. The Government of Pakistan would again seek assist from International Court of Justice regarding Indian violations. It is believed that India would cooperate for resolving the challenges with Pakistan regarding Indus Waters Treaty. For the last 70 years as well, we have recorded that India taking advantage of Pakistan’s sluggishness in matters concerning the water resources. In this time period, they have built dams and even went ahead to stop the flow of water to Pakistan on certain occasions. Because of lack of political will, the country unluckily has not made new dams since 1960s and this is also a violation of Indus water treaty. The treaty was inked in 1960s is about the possession of water of the western and eastern rivers between India and Pakistan. The conflict emerged when India built the Kishenganga and Ratle hydro-electric power plants within the framework of Indus Water Treaty.
In last I would also like to mention here, Pakistani citizens should also manage the consumption of water in their individual capacity. The government should focus on this issue and should develop new water pipeline in Pakistan to remove the water scarcity.