ISLAMABAD - Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday launched a fundraising appeal to construct new water storage dams to tackle droughts, warning that the country's current capacity would not last beyond a month.
In a televised address, Imran Khan announced the launch of a fund to address shortages, warning that the country has water storage capacity only for 30 days. "I appeal to all Pakistanis especially those living abroad to donate generously to the fund," he said.
Imran urged overseas Pakistanis to donate at least $1000 each to overcome the looming water crisis.
The prime minister said every Pakistani living in Europe and the United States can contribute at least $1000 for the future of the country. "Pakistanis engaged in labour and other low-salaried jobs in Middle East and other countries should also contribute according to their capacity," he added.
Imran said water was the biggest issue of the country. The premier said he had been taking presentations since the last two weeks on the issues faced by the country.
The prime minister said it was crucial for Pakistan to build dams as failure to do so could be detrimental to its future generations. He appreciated Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar for taking initiative to construct dams which was primary responsibility of the politicians, saying: “Experts say if we do not make dams we will face a drought in seven years. We have to start making dams from today.”
Imran said the Prime Minister and Chief Justice’s fund for the construction of dams would be merged.
“I urge overseas Pakistanis to contribute to this fund. If every overseas Pakistani contributes to this, we will be able to construct the dams and our reserves will also improve,” he said. The premier reminded: “No one will give us loans. We have to construct this dam. I assure you that I will protect your money.”
The prime minister said a ministry would be formed which would work towards resolving the crisis. He warned Pakistan could face drought-like conditions by 2025 if dams were not constructed.
He appealed to overseas Pakistanis to invest in the country, deposit money and send remittances in Pakistani banks. Last month, overseas Pakistanis were granted the right to vote in the upcoming by-elections.
Imran said the overseas Pakistanis had always stood by him in the past and supported his initiatives of Shaukat Khanum Memorial Hospital and Namal College, Mianwali. “We won’t need any loans,” Imran said, “I promise to protect every penny of your hard earned money.”
Imran directed all PTI chapters abroad and all those of other political parties to launch a ‘jehad’ to collect these funds for Pakistan.
He said in the briefings he had received in the past one fortnight, he was astonished to find out the quantum of challenges the country faced. He said the total loans the country owed were Rs 6000 billion (Rs 6 trillion) ten years back, but today they had swelled to Rs 30,000 billion (Rs 30 trillion). The water crisis was the most serious crisis confronting the country, he added.
The funds will be used to construct dams in northern and northwestern Pakistan, including the massive Diamer-Bhasha hydropower project, which is expected to produce over 4,000 megawatts of electricity on completion in 2023.
Official estimates show that by 2025 Pakistan will be facing an "absolute scarcity" of water, with less than 500 cubic metres available per person - just one third of the water available in parched Somalia, according to the UN.
The country has massive Himalayan glaciers, rivers, monsoon rains and floods - but just three major water storage basins, compared with more than a thousand in South Africa or Canada.
This week, the Senate Special Committee on Water Scarcity was informed that Pakistan being a water stressed country had the capacity of storing water for a maximum of 36 days, while the rest of the world can hold water for use for 130 days.
Water Resources Secretary Shumail Ahmed Khawaja said that current water available resources is 138 Million Acre Feet with a storage capacity of 13.7 MAF which was only 10 percent of available water resources.
He said that 90-95 percent of Pakistan’s water was being used for irrigation, 50 percent of which was lost during canal diversion.
The United Nations Development Program and the Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources issued warnings in May, predicting the country will run dry by the year 2025 if water-availability indicators slid further.
In 1990, the Water Resources council’s research revealed that Pakistan was at the “water stress line,” which was further downgraded to “water scarcity line” in 2005. It warned that if conditions persisted, Pakistan would face a drought-like situation in the very near future.
The River Indus System Authority also warned of an upcoming catastrophe if the country’s storage system did not improve and environmental degradation continued unabated.
In June, the IRSA warned authorities of a chronic water crisis, as only 220,000 cusec acres of water was available in reserves to meet growing demand in the country.
The IRSA, underscoring the vulnerability of Punjab and Sindh provinces, predicted that these provinces would face more than half, or 51 per cent, of the total water shortfall in the country.
PM Imran Khan took over power in August after winning the July 25 general elections. He promised to bring ‘change’ during his election campaign.
This month, PM Khan urged the opposition and the media to judge his governance after at least three months. He said the government had only taken over and would take time to deliver. “Three months down the road, there will be a marked difference in the way the country is run,” he promised.
PM launches $1,000-per-expat appeal to build dams