In my column today, I want to write about the seldom-talked-about matter of the wastage of resources.

First, a commodity essential for life itself: Water.70% of earth’s surface is water, 97% of it is salt water, 3 % fresh water and only 1% is fit for human consumption.

Pakistan today is a water-deficit country with an annual per-capita availabilityof around 1000 cubic meters. In 1947 it was about 5000 per-capita. The day is not far off when, with population growing at the current rate, the country will be facing an acute water scarcity crisis. Both the people and the government (rhetoric aside) are blissfully unconcerned about the urgency of economizing the use of water. There is enormous wastage of water in homes, farms, factories, parks and golf courses. A fewways people waste water: running taps while brushing teeth, shaving, using toilets, dish-washing, leaking faucets, using gallons of water for car-washing, misusing the washing machines, kitchen water wastage and excessive use of water for watering lawns. Some of the most alluring ads on our dozens of TV channels are the new housing societies for the elite in which new golf-courses constitute a major attraction for the prospective lawyers. Can a water-scarce country afford the luxury of such water guzzling projects? Are we waiting for the day when like Sao Paulo in Brazilwith a population of a 20-million,we may be forced to restrict water availability inour cities to only 2 or 3 days a week.

With glaciers melting, India building dams on rivers flowing into Pakistan and reprehensible failure to build storages in our country, the future looks grim.

More than a decade ago, a report prepared by a committee of experts found that the ground water in Lahore has gone down to 400 ft. Presently, it is said to be more than 600 ft. Afinding of the committee was that out of 10 samples taken from different parts of the city, 6 were found contaminated.

The rapidly growing gap between demand and supply calls for immediate action for water conservation measures and for extremely careful use of the decreasing quality of this vital resource. Long-term and short-term strategies need to be devised—a substantial country-wide awareness campaign backed by media to widely disseminate water conservation practices accompanied by on-farm extension services for adoption of efficient irrigation methods and technologies. The public awareness programmes should include schools, colleges, universities, mosques, churches, industries, business houses and public institutions.

A word now about time management. How muchmeaningful work do we do in a given unit of time? What is our level of productivity? How many hours do we devote to work assigned to us? Are we punctual and reach our offices and places of work on time?We open shops when almost half the day is gone by and don’t close business till very late at night-excessively consuming electricity.

Think of the millions of unemployed Pakistanis who waste their time in idle gossip, just laze around parks and bazaars and are inclined to petty crime or unwholesome activities. Think of overcrowded hospitals; millions who are caught in the rigmaroles of civil and criminal litigation for which they spend weeks and months in the courts where frequent adjournments make them do the rounds again and again. Just calculate how much time and money are wasted because of inefficiency and malpractice at our lower, civil and criminal courts.

How about education? Let us begin with  primary school. Roughly 30 to 40 percent of those enrolled in class I dropout. Think of many more hundreds of thousands who stay on in schools and colleges but fail in the matriculation and other examinations. Do we know what happensto them, how they feel and what harm or good they do to the society. Has any university done research to examine their state of mind and how they survive?

Perhaps the most glaring neglect on the part of the government is the outrageously low priority accorded to the promotion of literacy. As I mentioned in my last column, 60 million Pakistanis remain deprived of the basic human skill of reading and writing, with dire consequences for the society, economy and polity. In this day and age of rapid technological advances, is there a viable future for a country where almost one third of the population can’t even read traffic signals or a calendar?

How much time and money, do we spend on our marriages and funerals?The poor plunge into debt toorganise receptions, feasts and rituals. The rich display their wealth and social standing. Is it appropriate for a country to indulge in such extravagance? Shouldn’t a people for whom the Prophet (Peace be upon Him) is a role model, follow his example of simplicity and modest behavior?

Now a look at our political resources—leaders and politicians. How much time do they spend in their elected houses? How often is a quorum lackingand the house has to be adjourned? How much is paid to MPAs and MNAs, many of whom hardly make any contribution? Why are tens of millions given to them to spend at their discretion? Why can’t these billions be spent on setting up dispensaries and schools for the poor? How much legislation do they produce in a year? Are the questions asked on the floor of the house answered on time? How come these MPAs and MNAs interfere so brazenly in day-to-day administrativeaffairs? I happened to visit a mufassil-government high school where a headmaster told me that a local MPA literally dictates which teacher will teach which particular class.

Think of the flawed projects which fail to be completed and whose estimates keep rising with the passage of time. Share a thought for the time lost, delay in the accruingof the benefit to the people as also loss of man-hours and funds. Add to all this costly mismanagement, billions of public funds stolen through corrupt practices.