Put a STOP to the Water DROP

Water is the precious blessing of nature and life is impossible without water. It is essential for all forms of life on this planet but the water availability is becoming very scarce in Pakistan with the passage of time. Pakistan by birth is an agro-based economy, agriculture contributes for more than 21.8% in GDP and 70% of exports are associated with this sector. A huge amount of total water available in Pakistan (>95%) is consumed by agricultural sector as majority of the country population (>60%) is related to this sector either directly or indirectly. Population and water demand of Pakistan is increasing rapidly but Per capita water availability is decreasing at an alarming rate, posing adverse impacts on country health and economy and leading towards devastation. The reduced water availability will disturb national economy very badly in multiple ways e.g. reduced agricultural production, hydropower generation potential, industrial activity, disease etc. The growth rate of Pakistan reached to 5.7% in 2018 due effective policies of the government.

Water security is becoming a very hot issue especially for Pakistan as Pakistani Government didn’t pay serious attention regarding this issue and India is busy in blocking our water by forming dams on eastern rivers. Per capita, water availability decreased with the passage of time and reached to 1000 cubic meters in 2015 from 5600 cubic meters in 1947 because water is excessively wasted at houses, offices, markets, and factories. Fresh and drinking water is used for washing, gardening, and other non-drinkable purposes. All these activities ranked Pakistan as 3rd water scarce country, placing human survival at risk and halting all development. Indus river and its tributaries, bring 144 MAF of water annually to Pakistan, more than 90% from western rivers and remaining from eastern rivers. 105 MAF is diverted for irrigation. Of the 105 MAF withdrawn by canal network, approximately 42 percent infiltrates to groundwater reservoir while 3 percent is lost as evaporation or through non-beneficial consumption, including unintended vegetation along banks, and breaches etc. in the conveyance network. The balance 55 percent, or 58 MAF, becomes available to farmers for use in the fields by crops.

Jamshed Iqbal Cheema, a well-known agriculturist said that country’s water storage capacity is decreasing that will badly disturb agricultural and power sector. He said that storage capacity of one of the biggest water project Tarbela Dam and Mangla Dam decreased from 9.69 to 6.56 MAF (32%) and 5.34 to 4.41 MAF (18%) respectively.

Pakistan can store only 10% of its annual rivers flow as compared to the world average of 40%. By 2025, more than 31% population of Pakistan will face severing water shortage. This need for serious steps e.g. imposing water conservation strategies e.g. water metering and charging, building of water reservoirs, dams including Kala-Bagh dam and many other water storage projects. The government allocated 79 billion in the 2018-19 budget for water division including 18 billion for completion of DiaMirBhasha Dam and claimed that by completing this dam water storing capacity will increase from 38 days to 45 days against the minimum requirement of 120 days while most of the developed countries have 1-2 years’ water storage capability.

Pakistan is working on water policy since many years and finally formulated Pakistan’s first water policy 2018 in compliance with National Climate Change Policy 2012. This water policy focuses on sustainable use of water resources, increasing the efficiency of the water system, repairing the downstream leakages, smart metering, treating wastewater and creating effective solutions increasing water efficiency.

Pakistan should work on the serious issue of water scarcity on a priority basis to deal with adverse social and economic impacts. There are 26 water projects in the pipeline, construction activities must be completed on priority basis. Siltation of Tarbela and Mangla dam is reducing total water storage capacity. In this regard Kalabagh dam will the best solution to overcome water crisis by storing 3.2 MAF for next 100 years, will also help in generating renewable 3600 MW hydropower and lowering flood risk due to monsoon rainfall.

Sindh will be worst affected if Kalabagh dam not completed on time because of reduced water supply for irrigation. Some NGO’s and politician for their own benefits are opposing kalabagh dam by saying that this will reduce water supply and be leading to saline intrusion. Actually after the construction of this Sindh will receive additional 2.26 MAF water. This will increase average water supply of Sindh from 37% to 40%. Kalabagh and other such water projects must be completed on a priority basis to solve the upcoming water crisis.