ISLAMABAD - Farmers have feared that the severe shortage of water may cause 40 percent decline in production of three major crops - cotton, sugarcane and rice - as compared to the last year.
The overall supply of water is short as compared to previous years but in Southern Punjab - the major cotton growing belt- the situation is worse.
The canals are almost dry, the Muzaffargarh Canal, which runs at 9,000 cusecs, is only having 900 cusecs water, the DG Khan Canal, which has a sanctioned capacity of 10,000 cusecs is supplying only 1,000 cusecs water while the TP link canal which should have 9,000 cusecs water is totally dry, Meher Kahlid Mehmood, General Secretary Farmers Association said.
He said due to water crisis, major crops - sugarcane, cotton and rice - are suffering badly. He said that farmers have completed sowing of the cotton crop by purchasing costly water. He said that 5-6 litres of diesel is required to water one acre of land from the repeater engine pump.
He said the farmers are worried as if they will use so costly water for irrigation their input which is already very costly will become more expensive.
The farmers said in previous years, water supply started after April 15 and they managed to water their crops but due to extreme weather water vaporises immediately and more water is required. They said that sugarcane requires a total of six litres water and this huge quantity is impossible without canal water.
It is too early to say but as the situation is developing, I do not think we would achieve 60 per cent production as compared to last year, Meher Kahlid added. Last year, 85 per cent sowing will be completed till first week of June, according to the local government figures as in the current year only 50-55 per cent sowing has been completed so far. I can safely predict that in present extreme weather and water unavailability, the total cotton production may decline by 30-35 per cent as compared to last year, said Rao Afsar, an official of small farmers association.
Stressing the need to construct new reservoirs, he said, if major crops production will decline it would not only be an individual loss to farmers but it would be devastating for the crippling economy of the country.
The farmers from Sindh also reported water shortage and said they were also facing water crisis. Water scarcity in the country was recently highlighted in an organised social media campaign. The Supreme Court also vowed on Monday to resolve the water crisis. Director General ISPR Maj. Gen Asif Ghafoor in a press briefing also said that water shortage is a serious issue, urging the political parties to evolve a consensus on construction of new water reservoirs. He feared that future wars might be fought on water issues.
To some people, the sudden social media hype on water scarcity is a damage control move from hawks aimed to repair the dent caused by Asad Durrani’s book, The Spy Chronicles: Raw, ISI and the Illusion of Peace has made.
But on the other side, many believe that even if it is a damaged control move, the statement of army on some genuine national issues is very welcoming as almost drought-like situation is prevailing in many parts of the country.
But the United Nations recent report revealed that the crisis is not new but has been prevailing since long. The country touched the ‘water stress line’ in 1990, and crossed the ‘water scarcity line’ in 2005.
According to the report, Pakistan is on track to become the most water-stressed country in the region and 23rd in the world by 2040.
To many politicians civil and military bureaucrats and decision makers all are responsible for the present crisis.
The water crisis is so huge that the diplomatic community residing in the country is also showing concerns.
Germany's ambassador to Islamabad Martin Kobler recently through a tweet shared his own way of minimising water consumption to highlight the looming crisis.
The former Head of United Nations Support Mission in Libya tweeted, “using a bucket to save water while washing my car!! #paksitan ranks third amongst countries facing water shortage. One major reason is excessive use! 100 liters wasted washing a car with running tap water.
According to meteorological office, the current prolonged intense dry heat spell is unusual and a possible impact of climate change.
Experts believe a national strategy is required to meet the water crisis challenge. In addition to making new water reservoirs, water wastage should be stopped immediately and water conservation techniques must be adopted at government and individual levels.