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Water Crisis and Water Security in Pakistan

By Sadiqa Noreen

According to the Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources (PCRWR), Pakistan is 17th on the list of countries facing water crises which means the current situation is prone to deterioration if immediate actions are not taken. The report also says that the country will run out of water by 2025 if enough reservoirs are not built. It must be noted that the current per capita availability of water is below 1000 cubic meter whereas at the time of independence it was around 5000 meter cubic.

However, there are various reasons for the shortage of water in Pakistan but one reason is the rapid growth of population versus the number of reservoirs built to meet the rising demand. The water needs (of estimated 208 million Pakistanis) will continue to rise in the absence of remedial action. Building more reservoirs and dams is just one part of the solution. Apart from this, it is also essential to diversify the water resources. Comparative policies could be adapted from countries like Singapore and Maldives. The former’s close loop hydrologic cycle and integrated systems approach to water management, locally known as the Four National Taps, and the latter’s use of rainwater harvesting and recycling are effective methods to tackle water shortages.
Pakistan’s economy is the most-water-intensive worldwide, this is because the country’s economy is largely based on agriculture. Its food security and as well as industrial base depends on the irrigation system, and current irrigation practices are largely inefficient and water productivity is lowest in the Indus basin’s irrigated agriculture. New methods, such as furrow-bed irrigation and drip irrigation farming need to be adopted by the government of Pakistan which could save upto 30pc of water usage and wastage.

One major issue regarding water is not the shortage only, but wastage as well. Millions of liters of water goes to waste because of the mismanagement. Water is an almost free commodity whereas in other countries price is put on water usage. Water meters in residential and commercial areas need to be installed to monitor the use of water. This will not only sensitize the public but also decrease the intense amount of water being used.

Although Pakistan faces challenge in trans-border water talks, yet it needs to focus on interstate issue. Water scarcity can aggravate internal tensions. According to a report published by the UN on Pakistan; water scarcity, droughts, floods and institutional mismanagement can lead to local tensions and gradually to the escalation of interstate disputes.
However, efforts must not be delayed to address the country’s water scarcities as it will intensify tensions and disagreements between the involved stakeholders. In such scenario, the price will have to be paid by the whole nation. So, Water management needs to become a top priority for Pakistan.

The government must take serious measures not only in the construction of mega dams (Kalabagh, Diamer-Bhasha) but also scores of small dams. The most pressing need is to create awareness and implement sound water-management practices along crafting sustainable solutions to meet supply-demand management. For the long run it is imperative that an integrated and comprehensive policy framework be developed to ensure sustainable development of water resources.

By Sadiqa Noreen

The writer is a Research Associate at Pakistan House

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