The summer is taking a toll on the Pakistani public, with over 200 families migrating from Southern Sindh to areas more inland because of the acute water shortage, and with protests in Punjab and Balochistan over the oft-repeated ‘miscalculations’ in water readings due to the old and unreliable gauges, and consequently no proper checks in water distribution for irrigation. Lahore and Islamabad are also facing a water shortage, although this has more to do with the repeated power cuts than the distribution of water itself. The list of problems keeps piling up, and in addition to the rising circular debt, lack of electricity for the power grid, theft and line losses, distribution companies such as LESCO are reportedly also facing a shortage of important equipment such as transformers, which the company has been unable to purchase since June last year.

The dams only recently started releasing water to cater to the energy and water shortage, and the federal government is currently busy making plans with how to counter the water shortage in the capital, and the rest of the country’s problems are seemingly falling on deaf ears. The Sindh government has refused to use a portion of its share to help Islamabad, citing their own people’s needs as the priority. The provinces have often locked horns over water shares in the past, and the constant bickering over Kalabagh Dam (KBD) is by extension, one of the biggest bones of contention between the provincial governments. The Sindh government has always vehemently opposed its construction, calling for the protection of its lower riparian rights and arguing that building another dam will dry up the Indus even further and will allow seawater to increase salinity in the mainland. With Sindh getting moderate support from Balochistan and KPK, the proposition’s rationale of building KBD to increase the life of Tarbela Dam, with more hydro-electric power generation and greater water stability with increased irrigation have been largely ignored.

The Diamer-Bhasha Dam and the Dasu hydro-electric power project seem to be the only projects for water in the government’s to-do-list, albeit with no clear funding plan for the former. While it easy to point the finger eastwards and blame India for building dams on their side of the border causing a water shortage in Pakistan, it is important to remember that our previous governments failed to do anything about this while they watched the rivers dry up. Dams could have been built on this side as well, and if initiatives such as the KBD were taken seriously, maybe Pakistan would not constantly have to be a country in crisis.