Water scarcity in Pakistan – causes, effects and solutions
ZAHID IQBAL – Water is the most important element necessary for human beings, animals, insects, plants and for earth as a whole. Sources of water available in Pakistan are rainfall, surface water available in rivers and underground water.
After the Indus Basin Treaty with India, water of only two rivers i.e. Jhelum and Chenab is available to Pakistan while the availability of water in the remaining three rivers i.e. Ravi, Sutlej and Bias depends on the will of India.
The construction of dams and barrages by India over River Chenab and River Jhelum in violation of the Indus Basin Treaty created the problem of water shortage for Pakistan which is becoming more and more severe with the passage of time. According to the UNO Report, Pakistan is at the 7th position in the list of countries, which are facing water crisis. Presently, Pakistan has a surface water of 153 MAF and underground water resources of only 24 MAF and Pakistan may face water shortage of 33 MAF during the year, 2025.
The population of Pakistan is increasing at a rate of 3.2%. Presently, we have to feed more the 200 million people and if population increase rate remains the same, then it will be almost double by the year,2025 and hence, the consumption of the underground water will also add to the problem which will be further aggravated due to factors such as global warming and other climate changes.
According to a research study on water resources of Pakistan, approximately water having economic values of $70 billion is being thrown into sea every year due to non-construction of water reservoirs. A water starved country, which has the foreign reserve of only $20 billion, can’t afford throwing water of economic value of $70 billion every year into sea.
Study of Pakistan Counsel of Research on the water resources of Pakistan (PCRWR) revealed that rapid depletion of ground water may soon worsen the water crisis in Pakistan’s major cities, causing a drought-like situation. Such crisis needs to be taken on war footings; otherwise, a large section of Pakistan’s population, especially those living in big cities, will be facing severe shortage of water.
Due to excessive pumping of underground water, the quality of underground water is being contaminated rapidly with heavy metals like Copper, Nickel and Cobalt etc, which are the causes of spread of Hepatitis in the people of Pakistan, especially in those living in big cities.
The problem of water shortage in Pakistan has gained the momentum as our water storage capacity is only for 30 days, and Pakistan has the 4th highest rate of water use in the world. It simply means that water intensity rate – the amount of water in cubic meters used per unit of GDP is the world highest and no country’s economy is more water intensive than that of Pakistan.
As regards the remedial measures needed to overcome this horrible water shortage in Pakistan, steps required to be taken immediately include:
* Preparation of country’s water policy;
* Construction of water reservoirs;
* National Action Plan to be formulated for judicious use of available water.
* Reduction in water losses through seepage, leaching and percolation by lining of Canals, Distributaries and Water Channels.
* Controlled over pumping of underground water and over irrigation practices.
* By increasing the water use efficiency of the crops by switching from conventional agriculture to conservative agriculture.
* By adopting water use efficient methods of irrigation like Sprinkler, Basin and Drip irrigation.