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Emergent water crisis — efforts on a war footing

Emergent water issue is the main concern for the country and the new Government of Pakistan led by Imran Khan who already had promises to resolve the same matter amicably need to make it a top priority as if no dams and water reservoirs were built on urgent basis, Pakistan would soon face drought like situation.

Government should concentrate on urgent construction of more water dams in the country to deal with the growing water crisis as it may be noted that Pakistan has so far constructed total 155 dams due to which it could store water for just 30 days. In comparison, India has 5,102 dams so far and it has the capacity to store water for 170 days.

Due to lack of water reservoirs, large quantity of water was being wasted every year. Pakistan was using 90 percent of its water for agriculture but due to the heavy use of tube wells and water bores, the level of underground water was going down sharply.

According to the UNO Report, Pakistan is at the 7th position in the list of countries, which are facing water crisis. At present Pakistan has a surface water of 153 MAF and underground water resources of only 24 MAF and Pakistan may face water shortage of 33 MAF by 2025.

Water is the most important element necessary for human beings, animals, insects, plants and for earth as a whole. Sources of water available in Pakistan are rainfall, surface water available in rivers and underground water. After the Indus Basin Treaty with India, water of only two rivers i.e. Jhelum and Chenab is available to Pakistan while the availability of water in the remaining three rivers i.e. Ravi, Sutlej and Bias riverbeds depends on the will of India. The construction of dams and barrages by India over River Chenab and River Jhelum in violation of the Indus Basin Treaty created the problem of water shortage for Pakistan which is becoming more and more severe with the passage of time.

Pakistan is not only facing water scarcity but the safe drinking water is also an imagination in many urban areas.

According to the recent report of UNICEF, 53,000 Pakistani children die of many lethal diseases such as diarrhea after drinking contaminated water each year.

Support for dams construction

Huge support is around for the construction of new dams in the country especially the completion of under construction Diamer-Bhasha and Mohmand dams with a combined electricity generation capacity of almost 5,500 megawatts as the building of these and other dams are essential requirement of Pakistan for its economic development.

Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar has taken a suo motu notice of the issue but the matter could not be resolved unless urgent measures are taken by the government to build more water reservoirs in the country.

Diamer-Bhasha dam on the River Indus in Gilgit Baltistan is in preliminary stages of construction. The dam was founded in 2011 and on completion would be the highest roller-compacted concrete (RCC) dam in the world. The complete dam would produce 4,500 megawatt of electricity through environmentally clean hydropower generation and store an extra 8,500,000 acre feet of water for the country. It would also be used for irrigation and drinking provided it will extend the life of Tarbela Dam, located downstream, by 35 years and control flood damage by the River Indus downstream during high floods.

The other ready dam is Mohmand Dam, a multi-purpose dam located on the Swat River. Once completed, the dam will generate 740MW of hydroelectricity, irrigate 15,100 acres of land and control floods downstream. It is expected to provide numerous estimated annual benefits including Rs 4.98 billion in annual water storage benefits, Rs 19.6 billion in power generation benefits by generation 2.4 billion units of electricity annually and Rs 70 million in annual flood mitigation benefits.

Rising population and problems

The population of Pakistan is increasing at a rate of 3.2 percent. Presently, Pakistan has to feed more the 200 million people. If population increase rate remains the same, then it will be almost double by the year 2025. Therefore, the consumption of water will also add to the problem which will further worsen due to factors such as global warming and other climate changes.

Study of Pakistan Counsel of Research on the water resources of Pakistan (PCRWR) revealed that rapid depletion of ground water may soon worsen the water crisis in Pakistan’s major cities, causing a drought-like situation. Such crisis needs to be taken on an urgent basis otherwise, a large section of Pakistan’s population, especially those living in big cities, will be facing severe shortage of water.

The amount of water in cubic meters used per unit of GDP is the world highest and no country’s economy is more water intensive than that of Pakistan.

The serious crisis of water has remained unnoticed and even the political parties do not bother to make this issue in their manifestos. When the water crisis is talked of, the managing and construction of dams get politicized. Beyond the construction of new dams, the already constructed dams are mismanaged.

According to the Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources, Pakistan may run dry if the prevalent situation continues.

Around $70bn is being thrown into sea every year

According to a research study on water resources of Pakistan, approximately water having economic values of $70 billion is being thrown into sea every year due to non-construction of water reservoirs. A water starved country, which has the foreign reserve of only $20 billion, can’t afford throwing water of economic value of $70 billion every year into sea.

Due to excessive pumping of underground water, the quality of underground water is being contaminated rapidly with heavy metals like copper, nickel and cobalt etc, which are the causes of spread of Hepatitis in the people of Pakistan, especially in those living in big cities.


Measures needed to overcome water crisis

So far as the remedial measures needed to overcome this increasing water shortage in Pakistan, steps required to be taken immediately include:

  1. Preparation of country’s water policy.
  2. Construction of water reservoirs.
  3. National Action Plan to be formulated for judicious use of available water.
  4. Water losses to be reduced through seepage, leaching and percolation.
  5. Losses to be reduced by controlling the over pumping of underground water and over irrigation practices.
  6. Increasing the water use efficiency of the crops by switching from conventional agriculture to conservative agriculture.
  7. Adopting water use efficient methods of irrigation like Sprinkler, Basin and Drip irrigation.
Deeper changes required to mitigate water deficiency

The worsening water crisis needs to be resolved for economic stability and development. Far deeper changes are required to mitigate the water deficiency.

Singapore follows the strategy of fours taps and Japan has invested heavily in water-saving technology.

Pakistan has sufficient water around the year that needs to be reserved rather it is left for spoilage and wastage.

Many developing countries are adopting a strategy of water-pricing that needs to be implemented in the country for better and efficient use of water.

According to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the development of lesser leveling technology and furrow bed irrigation has resulted in saving 30 percent of water and has led to increasing water productivity by 25 percent in Punjab. Its scope needs to be widened across Pakistan to achieve water availability.

Water worth $90bon lost since 2010 due to floods

Further according to Pakistan Council for Research in Water Resources Pakistan has lost water worth $90 billion since 2010 due to floods. This can be moderated by constructing mega but undisputed dams so that the country may get the hold of development, progress and prosperity. About 70 percent of the water in the country was received from the melting of glaciers and 25 percent from rain.

Most of the flood water made its way to the sea every year because of a shortage of reservoirs. Currently, water could be stored for only 30 days in three big water reservoirs namely Tarbela, Mangla and Chashma.

Underground water level drops in Balochistan

The underground water level in Balochistan had drastically dropped, but about 72,000 acres in the province would be irrigated after the completion of the Kacchi canal project. There has been no national water policy and public awareness.

There is an urgent need for building water reservoirs in the national interest. The need of the hour is that the provincial governments should also be activated about water storage and conservation. It is also suggested improvement in the canal rehabilitation system.

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