Jan 26 - Feb 01, 2009

War on water sounds like an absurd idea to have become a clichÈ as it is repeated every time interests of nations reach a clashing point and as it has been dramatized and documented several times through all means available on earth for infusing knowledge in public. Once again it rings from nowhere when tension grips India-Pak relationship and saying goes that next war in Pakistan would be spawned out of water crisis. The figment of mind must have found reasoning in to former's stoppage of water downstream to later. Letting the reason cross one's head, what if one thinks for a moment that fresh water 50% of which has already been appropriated by human would become a commercial commodity or would drive country's bitter or pleasant external relation with another country. In near future this is not impending yet the rate with which fresh water sources are being parched in the region due to climate change, lack of efforts to conserve fresh water and to build water resource management, and people's indifference to water consumption, this may happen.

Characterized by intensity and extremity, climate change has unleashed negative impacts on ecological system around the globe, changing weather conditions by erratic variation in temperature, greatly affecting water resource facilities worldwide. Both industrialized and developing nations are bearing fallouts of atmospheric degradation created by environment unfriendly industrial activities and excessive carbon emissions known as greenhouse effects. Flow of industrial untreated waste water into sea and air pollutants have not only brought about atmospheric degradation but also affected all flora and fauna. As a result, glaciers start to recede and water flows downstream in rivers get shrink.

In Pakistan, developments in atmosphere reflect in dried riverbeds. Tapering Tibetan glaciers are causing drawdown in water level in 3000 km long Indus river of Pakistan. That is so rapidly that environmentalists fear that glaciers will be contracted 50% annually. They said precipitated by global warming the process of depletion was unprecedented posing serious risk to future water supply across Asian countries. For Pakistan the situation is relatively grim due to its vanishing fresh water reserves. According to a study, fresh water reserves in Pakistan declined to 1,000 cubic meters per capita from 5,200 cubic meters in 1947. There are limitations in this statistics of non-official calculation and time interval in which population factor plays important role. However, non-availability of fresh water is commonly observed in many other rivers located in lower areas. This has been a death knell for wild lives alongside and inside rivers and farmers whose livelihood depends on current in rivers. Dried riverbeds welcome sea intrusion in deltas. Apart from commercial damages, water scarcity has raised question about the food security in the country as it is imperiling growth in agriculture sector and lowering crop per acre yield on low fertile farmlands.

Although emissions dangerous to ozonosphere are generated mostly by developed and industrial countries, the effect of climate change is shared globally as it does not recognize any national boundary. In a chain reaction, it has unwrapped infliction worldwide. China which is known as a prime casualty of climate change in the region has reciprocated with policy response to its drying aquifers and exhausting renewable surface water. India also has designed plan to overcome consequence of global warming for its water resource management system. Even Bangladesh is at least extrapolating data on population and sectors disturbed by climate change and urging on adaptation strategies to address developments. Sadly, but Pakistan has not so far formulated any coordinated policy framework to deal with the aftermaths of climate change. Minister for Environment Hameedullah Jan Afridi has exhorted of coordinated and combined efforts to face climate change in the region, suggesting establishment of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. But, no practical approach has been noticed in this regard. Nor environment protection agency has come up with a broad based policy response or investment plan to climate change.

Apathy towards such a major development is reflected in the meager fund allocations by the entire South Asian region to meet challenges of water issues. According to data table from the World Water series Pacific Institute, in SA cumulatively $223 million was invested in water and sewerage projects with private participation during 1990-2004. The amount spent was lowest than that of Sub-Saharan Africa ($230 million), Middle East and North Africa ($237 million), Europe and Central Asia ($3,822 million), East Asia and Pacific ($15,876 million), and Latin America and Caribbean ($20, 969 million).

One feels disappointment over non-availability of latest statistics on Pakistan's vulnerability to climate change or particular sectors under its grave threat. It seems that government is either non conversant of the gravity of the situation or uninspiring at all. This also shows the shortsightedness as only long term approach evokes proactive actions which are quintessential to reconcile with the wrath of nature. Sustainability in water source developments through building dams, rain storage, and internal supply network is also necessary to achieve millennium development goal that envisages access of safe drinking water to major population.

Inadvertently, people are fomenting turnaround to water economy. Government's ineptitude can not absolve public from the responsibility of careful consumption of water. By not adhering to the saving nature responsibility people redo the same mistake of shortsightedness. It may deem banality for the time being to be frugal in water usage, but it is like public welfare and rescue of next generation beforehand. In our part of the world where very little fraction of population has access to fresh water, the frugality is foremost needed to keep water from becoming a commercial commodity.