Tackling water shortage

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Pakistan has been facing several major crises that include terrorism, the Balochistan and Karachi issues, electricity and gas shortages besides economic stagnation.

It is unfortunate that some major crises have diverted the attention of the government and people away from other major issues. The water shortage that has hit the country and is about to become much worse is one of those.


Only recently, it was reported in the media that Pakistan was on the verge of being classified as a “water scarce” country by the Asian Development Bank (ADB). A report recently issued by the bank states: “Pakistan is one of the most water-stressed countries in the world, not far from being classified as ‘water scarce,’ with less than 1,000 cubic meters per person per year.”


Much before this report came out, the UN’s World Water Development Report had warned: “The total actual renewable water resources in Pakistan decreased from 2,961 cubic meters per capita in 2000 to 1,420 cubic meters in 2005.” Now, according to the ADB, it has fallen to 1,000 cubic meters per capita. As compared to Pakistan, the per capita water availability in the US is 6,000 cubic metres, Australia 5,500 cubic metres and China 2,200 cubic metres.


The ADB report further stated: “At present, Pakistan’s storage capacity is limited to a 30-day supply, well below the recommended 1,000 days for countries with a similar climate.”


About the agriculture sector, it added: “Achieving the major challenge of boosting agricultural productivity and strengthening food security requires improving the management, storage, and pricing of water for irrigation. Improved water management is critical to deliver sufficient water to the 80% of farmland in the country that is irrigated. Anecdotal evidence suggests that agricultural productivity could be doubled with appropriate reform.”


The report is pretty alarming. According to the Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources (PCRWR), Pakistan has an estimated population of 187 million with an annual growth rate of 1.57 percent. By the year 2050, the population is expected to double and would become 63.7% urban as compared to only 36 percent in 2010. This will put tremendous pressure on water supply for households, industry and agriculture.


Meanwhile, out of the 140 million acre feet (MAF) of water annually available in Pakistan in a normal year, only about 40 MAF reaches the Indus delta. The other 100 MAF of water is consumed over an area of 40 million acres.


Experts have again and again pointed out that the country’s water storage capacity be increased significantly so as to manage periods of low snowmelt and low rainfall. They have also called for improving the distribution system for agriculture to reduce the mounting water losses.


Some measures that will help control the problem include: Developing a comprehensive water strategy; building major reservoirs to save water; setting up an authority for saving groundwater; building off-channel water reservoirs to preserve flood water; application of techniques of efficient use of water; efficient methods for treatment of sewage; comprehensive awareness drive to educate people; focusing on emerging challenges such as climate change and desertification.


While the above statistics seem to present stubborn facts about the water shortage, understanding and addressing them should be the top-most priority of the government.

Courtesy:  The News

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