Although water is an omnipresent resource, yet many regions in the world are on the verge of water depletion. Pakistan is one of those countries, which according to a recent survey, touched “water stress line” in 1990’s and “water scarcity line” in 2005. The survey conducted by Pakistan Council of Research on Water Resources (PCRWR), further revealed that there are testing times ahead for Pakistan as the country would possibly run dry by 2025. Pakistan is heading towards “water stress” country and has already reached the limit of 1000 cubic meters per person per year, below which serious economic and social consequences are likely to occur.
According to the World Resources Institute, Pakistan is among the five leading countries that face extremely high water stress and low access to safe drinking water and sanitation. Similarly, the United Nations categorizes Pakistan amongst those few (unfortunate) countries where water shortage could destabilise and jeopardize its existence in next 10 years.
Considering the enormity of the challenge and high cost of doing nothing, it is time government accorded its highest priority to water issues. There is a need to have a full time water czar. We are very poor in managing our present water resources. Almost half of the country is immersed in floods in rainy season. The flood water ravages everything that comes in its way and goes straight into the river unutilized. Our irrigation canal system is poorly lined and outdated, wasting a huge portion of fresh water on a daily basis. Sedimentation is another problem that decreases the storage capacity of our major dams. Moreover, annually 22MAF of fresh water is lost unutilized below Kotri into the sea.
There needs to be a two-pronged approach addressing supply side as well as demand side issues. Over 95pc of Pakistan’s water is used for agriculture. Due to poor farming practices and almost free availability, most of the water is wasted. Even before water reaches the farms, almost 50pc is wasted through the crumbling canal infrastructure. The Governments’ policy of subsidizing water-intensive crops is another major factor, exacerbating the situation. Of all the challenges Pakistan is facing, water is the most critical, it should be realized by the government. It is high time that the government focuses on construction of other major dams. Accordingly it should receive more allocations than any other sector be it defence or roads.