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Terrorism, celebrity controversies and cricket wins are what rule Pakistan’s headlines but beneath all the commotion the country is battling a severe problem – a massive water crisis.
Pakistan has the world’s fourth highest rate of water use. Its water intensity rate – the amount of water, in cubic meters, used per unit of GDP – is the world’s highest. This suggests that no country’s economy is more water-intensive than Pakistan’s.
According to the IMF, Pakistan’s per capita annual water availability is 1,017 cubic metres — perilously close to the scarcity threshold of 1,000 cubic metres. Back in 2009, Pakistan’s water availability was about 1,500 cubic metres.
The major threat that Pakistan faces today is not Islamist terrorism but water scarcity. While the former makes headlines all over the world, the latter is an issue that is hardly discussed in the national and international media or by policymakers.
Water crisis is one of the biggest issues of Pakistan. Pakistan is at the 17th position in the list of the countries, which are facing water crisis. Some people do not have water to drink and they are compelled to drink unsafe water, which is full of darts. These small dangerous bacteria make the people sick and it is more painful to say that if some people in Pakistan have a small amount of water they start wasting it; they do not bother to save water for the poor.
As the water crisis worsens in Pakistan, foreign diplomats and activists have taken to social media, urging people to save water. “Using a bucket to save water while washing my car! #Pakistan ranks third amongst countries facing water shortage.
Another major reason is excessive use. 100 liters wasted washing a car with running tap water. Many ways to #SaveWater in our daily life! #SaveWaterforPak,” Martin Kobler, German ambassador to Pakistan, wrote on Twitter.
CORE REASONS BEHIND THE SHORTAGE?
In Pakistan, people are dependent upon rains and monsoon downpours when water flows down the rivers and also goes down the land surface to raise the underground water level utilized for irrigation and drinking purposes.
The bulk of Pakistan’s farmland is irrigated through a canal system, but the IMF says in a report canal water is vastly underpriced, recovering only one-quarter of annual operating and maintenance costs. Meanwhile, agriculture, which consumes almost all annual available surface water, is largely untaxed.
According to Pakistan Water Partner (PWP), the total available surface water is about 153 million MAF and the total ground water reserves are approximately 24 MAF, of which a substantial part is pumped out without allowing for a natural research.
Experts say that population growth and urbanization are the main reasons behind the crisis. The issue has also been exacerbated by climate change, poor water management, and a lack of political will to deal with the crisis.
“Pakistan is approaching the scarcity threshold for water. What is even more disturbing is that groundwater supplies – the last resort of water supply – are being rapidly depleted.
The population of Pakistan will be doubled by the year 2025 and hence the consumption of the under-ground water will also add to the problem further aggravated by the factors of the global warming and the climate change.
Today in the modern world Pakistan is the largest contiguous irrigation system in the world. 68 MAF is potentially usable water. If the canal system is adequately repaired and maintained, sweet water availability of approximately 144 MAF and 97% is already being used in agriculture and agricultural owners’ demands for more and more water to grow sugar cane and rice crops.
In the monsoon season in 8% plants will be cultivated but that is without irrigation. Pakistan is expected to face shortage of 31 million acre feet MAF of water by 2025 which would pose a grave threat to Pakistan’s economy and stability. Indian plan to build a dam on Wulur lake would affect the flow of water in Pakistan.
According to the media, India has ventured upon an ambitious plan worth $120 billion to divert water of the Pakistani rivers. The government should start the construction of dams and provide secure water for irrigation and domestic use.
Yet, Pakistan blames India for its water crisis. The country’s authorities say that New Delhi is not fulfilling its responsibilities under the Indus Waters Treaty – brokered by the World Bank in 1960 – as they voice concerns over India’s construction of new dams.
WATER SHORTAGE FUELING PROBLEMS – Most Immediate Threats
The scarcity of water is also triggering security conflicts in the country. Experts say the economic impact of the water crisis is immense, and the people are fighting for resources. Three out of four Pakistani provinces blame the most populous and politically empowered province, Punjab, for usurping their water sources.
“The government is ignoring the interests of our province,” Ayaz Lateef Palejo, a nationalist leader from the southern Sindh province, told DW. “There is massive corruption in the water sector, and we are unhappy with the situation,” he added.
A UNDP report says that Pakistani authorities are negligent about an impending water crisis that is posing a serious threat to the country’s stability. But a recent UNDP draft report on the water crisis in Pakistan sheds light on a serious, albeit much-neglected, conflict the South Asian country is grappling with. Experts say the South Asian country is likely to dry up by 2025.
It said if this situation persists, Pakistan is likely to face an acute water shortage or a drought-like situation in the near future, predicted the PCRWR, which is affiliated with the South Asian country’s Ministry of Science and Technology, the majority-Muslim country touched the “water stress line” in 1990 and crossed the “water scarcity line” in 2005.