The coming Rabi season from October to March is bad news for Pakistan. The Indus River System Authority (IRSA) on Friday announced that Punjab and Sindh are likely to face a 20 percent shortage of water in the upcoming season. However, Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have been promised no cuts in share of water.

This is troubling news, especially for the wheat farmers of Punjab and Sindh who rely heavily on irrigated water, but the rest of the comments by IRSA are even more disturbing. They paint a picture of a country that is not keeping up with the infrastructure required to meet the growing water demand, and is losing functionality in the existing one due to non-maintenance. The result, if the situation is allowed to continue like this, will predictably be dire.

This is evidenced by the tone used by the body to make suggestions. It has asked the government start construction work on additional reservoirs on “a war footing”. These are strong words, which belie the desperation of the body seeking action from the government. Sadly, that recognition from the government is missing.

IRSA was empowered back in 1991 specially to deal with water allocation twice a year, in Rabbi and Kharif seasons. If the body has existed for the last 26 years, and has repeatedly drawn attention to Pakistan’s growing water scarcity and inadequate water storage facilities, it is about time that the government acknowledges their efforts and takes some strict measures to resolve the matter.

IRSA is not the only body to make these suggestions. Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA) has also suggested increasing the storage capacity of Tarbela and Mangla Dams upto 1,386 feet and 1,062 feet respectively. In the next couple of years, it warns, India would have taken great advantage of the situation, and due to the changing climate and its negative effects on our rivers Pakistan will be at the losing end of the game

While water problems have always remained this country’s enduring problem, but matters are reaching a critical phase at the moment. Pakistan’s reliance on its agricultural sector is a substantial part of its economy. More than simple economics, such large water shortages will hamper our food supplies Wheat is planted in these months and is a staple food around the nation; if there is shortage of water for one of the main crops, then Pakistan may be headed for troubled times.