Shahzaib Khan |
Water is key for a sustainable future. It plays a vital role because it is the most important aspect that ensures food security and without water no one can expect sustainable development. Water has a pivotal role in the national food and energy security. We can produce energy from other sources but food security is totally dependent on the availability of fresh water. The world population is growing at a faster pace and to feed this population, a 67 percent increase in food grain production is needed. However, is there sufficient water to meet the future needs?
The world is facing a shortage of fresh water because fresh water is only 2.5 percent of the total water in the world. The major sources of fresh water are glaciers and ice caps (69.7%), underground water resources (29.9%) and the surface water from lakes and rivers (0.4%). Asia is one of the regions in which many countries are facing the water crisis. It accounts for 64 percent of the world population while its freshwater resources consist of 47 percent of total fresh water in the world. According to the United Nation Commission for Economic and Social Commission 1.8 billion people in Asia have no access to fresh water?
In case of Pakistan, we face huge gaps between the demand and supply of water. In 1947, we had 5,000 cubic meter per capita water available which declined to 1,300 cubic metres per capita in 2002 and 1,000 cubic meter per capita in 2018. According to experts it will further drop to 860 cubic meters per capita in 2025. Our neighbors India, Nepal and Bangladesh are expected to have water surplus while Pakistan will be facing a water deficit of 102 billion cubic meters with a 335 billion cubic meter demand but only 236 billion cubic meters worth of supply available by 2025.
Our major metropolitan cities like Karachi and Lahore are already facing the water stress and are in the clutches of the “Tanker Mafia,” while Islamabad is next on the list to be hijacked by them in next few years.
There are multiple causes behind this snag. One of the major issue is the lack of storage infrastructure. In regard to this, the lack of concern at government’s end for the last many decades has miserably affected us. Annually, 145 million acre feet (MAF) flows into Pakistan and so far we only stored 7 percent of this fresh water, dumping 93 percent into sea. On the other hand, India stores 30 percent of its 750 MAF annual inflow. This waste of water, according to the IRSA, costs $ 22 billion annually.
The storage capacity of the Mangla, Tarbela and Chashma has depreciated from 15.75 MAF to 13 MAF due to sedimentation. Secondly, underground water resources are also diminishing with the passage of time. Due to lack of storing infrastructure and ill management of water inflow, the agriculture sector has shifted to depend upon tube wells. More than 60 percent of water that reaches the farm gate in Pakistan is obtained from tube wells, which is the cause of the decreasing underground water resources.
We believe the notion that India is trying to bully us by building dams on rivers and violating the Indus water treaty signed in 1960 brokered by the World Bank We lost the Kishanganga Case due to our inability to convince the international community. India won the case on the stand of preservation of water for future needs and assured that these dams will not be used to wage a water war against Pakistan. This is incompetent and a major setback on the diplomatic front. Though World Bank allowed India to continue construction of dams with maintaining 9 cumecs natural flow to Pakistan, we were having 100 cumecs natural flow prior to the construction of this Kishanganga Dam.
The rest is up to you to decide. . But the point to ponder is that we are already dumping 93 percent of our annual water inflow into the sea. This week the government announced the first-ever National Water policy that was lacking for decades. However, the policy is unclear about how the policy objectives will be achieved. I think this is a national cause and all should sincerely work towards sorting out the issue rather than using it to score politically. According to the IRSA, this Khareef season, the water inflow estimate was 36.17 million acre-feet (MAF) while the availability was 24.06 MAF.
Our neighbors India, Nepal and Bangladesh are expected to have water surplus while Pakistan will be facing a water deficit of 102 billion cubic meters with a 335 billion cubic meter demand but only 236 billion cubic meters worth of supply available by 2025.
The cultivation of the Khareef crop is facing a water shortfall of 12.11 million acre feet which is nearly 40 percent and will significantly hamper the cotton production along with the annual GDP. New dams are the need of the hour. We have not built any major dam since the 1960s. Dams are costly but they can benefit the country in the long run. We should think practically and keep all our political differences aside and should be on one page to serve the national cause. With new dams, we will be further able to utilize our hydel power resources, which are currently estimated to be nearly 60,000 Megawatts. We will have surplus electricity.
Secondly the brick lining of the water canals and adoption of modern methods for irrigation can help us save water for our future needs. With this in mind, all individual also have to play their role, we need to be aware of the fact that our nation is in need of conserving water and that we need to change our ways to responsibly use the resource. If immediate actions are not taken, Pakistan will suffer a lot.
Our major metropolitan cities like Karachi and Lahore are already facing the water stress and are in the clutches of the “Tanker Mafia,” while Islamabad is next on the list to be hijacked by them in next few years. Time has now come to think about this issue. If this issue remains unaddressed and not dealt with immediately, our coming generations will have to suffer a lot and our national food and energy security will be at risk. We are not here for a few years, we are here forever so we should think accordingly. We can’t run a country on ad hoc basis anymore.
The author has a degree in International Relations from National Defence University, Islamabad. The views expressed in this article are author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.