Fahad Ali |
Water, the true elixir of life, is one of the basic necessities of human life. In fact, the very existence of humans on this planet was possible because of water. Earth is the only known planet in our galaxy, the Milky Way, which contains liquid water. The liquid form of matter itself is so rare that it is only present on two known places: Earth and Titan, Saturn’s largest moon, but Titan merely has lakes of Carbon dioxide (CO2) which cannot sustain life as we know it. All living beings not only need water but they are also made up of water, the human body itself is made 60% up of water.
Water is a key component of metabolism and we are constantly expending water for the functioning of our bodies. A human being can survive almost three weeks without any food but cannot live for more than three days without water. We need water for everything, from drinking, growing our food, cleaning ourselves and for the effective functioning of most of our industries. Since the importance of water is now established, one can now focus on the issues related to water scarcity.
One question that comes to everyone’s mind is that even though 71% of Earth’s surface is covered with water, why do people complain about its scarcity? The answer is simple, the water present in the seas is not potable i.e. suitable for drinking and consuming purposes. The salt content in sea water is very high and rather than hydrating us after consumption, it has the opposite effect. To minimize the effect of salts that enter into our system through sea water, the cells in our body release their trapped water to flush them out so sea water ends us leaving more dehydrated than we were.
The burden now lies at the shoulders of the interim government to steer Pakistan out of this disaster but above all, it lies on the citizens of Pakistan. The need of the time is to elect someone who not only understands Pakistan’s water crisis but also has a remedy for them.
97.5% of Earth’s water is present in the oceans and the remaining 2.5% is available for our usage. Among this 2.5% water, 69% is available in the form of glaciers and icecaps, 30% in the form of ground water and only 1% is available to us in the form of fresh surface water. It shows that only 1% of Earth’s potable water is readily available to us for drinking purposes. Earth’s current population is almost 7.6 billion and even though the potable water available to us for consumption has not reduced in any way, the population is exploding at such a rapid rate that the available water is proving to be inadequate to cater for the needs of the whole world.
While water scarcity is a major issue throughout the world, Pakistan is one of the most endangered countries when it comes to water shortage. According to an International Monetary Fund (IMF) report, Pakistan ranks third among countries facing storage. The findings of the report were exceptional but not unexpected. Last year, the United Nations placed Pakistan at the 7th position among countries which are facing a serious water problem. These problems have a direct manifestation on the economy of the country.
Pakistan has not constructed any new major dams since the 1960s. Even though the number of dams were adequate for the population at that time, they were barely enough for the current population. The population of Pakistan in 1960 was almost 45 million but the current population of Pakistan is almost 200 million. While the population expanded more than 4 times in the past 50 years, the number of water reservoirs failed to keep up with the pace. Pakistani population is growing at the rate of 2% annually and at this rate, the country will be in a drought like situation by 2025.
The current water storage capacity of Pakistan is only 30 days, means that Pakistan’s reservoirs can only sustain the country for 30 days without any rain. In comparison, India has a storage capacity of 220 days, Egypt 1,000 days, America 900 days, Australia 600 days and South Africa has capacity of over 500 days. It is evident that Pakistan is lagging far behind other developed and developing countries in the world. Any efforts made by the successive governments of Pakistan became a victim to political instability and conflict of interests. Political leaders in Pakistan have put the whole future of country in jeopardy over myopic interests.
To minimize the effect of salts that enter into our system through sea water, the cells in our body release their trapped water to flush them out so sea water ends us leaving more dehydrated than we were.
Pakistan has more glaciers than almost everywhere on Earth other than the poles. 80% of the water in Pakistan’s rivers comes from these glaciers but these glaciers are melting at a very fast pace. In 2010, Pakistan had 2400 glacial lakes but now there are 3000 of them. These lakes are formed after the melting of glaciers and they can result in flash flooding. Pakistan lost almost 15 billion dollars because of floods from 2010-2012. Pakistan’s forest to land area ratio is at the critically low level of 1.9% while the optimum value is around 25% according to World Bank. It is one of the major reasons of environmental degradation and glacier melting in Pakistan.
The irrigation system in Pakistan is one of the biggest in the world but unfortunately, it is also one of the most inefficient in the world. 80% of the crops in Pakistan are irrigated by canals while only 15% are irrigated by rain. 35-40% of this water from the canals is wasted at canal heads; some of it is wasted in transmission while some is wasted because of inefficient delivery system. Canals have not been maintained over time and leakage has become a major issue. Inefficient distribution system also results in exploitation and wastage.
The Indus River System Authority (IRSA) issued a warning on Sunday of an incoming acute water crisis. They apprised that the current storage stock remains at 0.220 million acres feet due to which the provinces of Punjab and Sindh will face 51 percent water shortage which after accounting the transmission loses would amount to almost 70 percent. It will seriously affect the crops and would result not only in a humanitarian disaster but also an economic disaster. The time is ripe to focus all attention and resources to the water woes of Pakistan.
These are only some of the water problems that Pakistan if acing. The grand picture is even grimmer. This multifaceted problem requires a multifaceted solution. The PML-N government has completed its tenure without adequately addressing the water issues of Pakistan. The burden now lies at the shoulders of the interim government to steer Pakistan out of this disaster but above all, it lies on the citizens of Pakistan. The need of the time is to elect someone who not only understands Pakistan’s water crisis but also has a remedy for them.
Fahad Ali is the Assistant Editor at GVS. The views expressed in this article are author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s Editorial Policy.