LAHORE  - The national economy is undergoing a huge loss of around $45 billion annually, thanks to successive governments’ failure to construct new water reservoirs and mismanagement of fresh water resources.

According to official data available with The Nation, an average 30.35 Million Acre Feet (MAF) of water is going down the sea every year from Kotri Barrage.

Calculations by water experts indicate that one MAF water, if utilised properly, can add 1 to 1.5 billion dollars to the national economy, though average world gain rate from one MAF water is around 2 billion dollars.

Indus Water Council Chairman Suleman Khan said that the international rate for one MAF is two billion dollars but under the given circumstances in Pakistan it may be estimated to be 1.5 billion dollar per MAF. Thus, total annual loss comes to around 45 billion dollars given the fact that we are wasting 30.35 MAF water annually.

The UNO, Asian Development Bank and other organisations have warned that scarcity of water would further deepen the energy crisis, a situation that would eventually give rise to considerable decrease in production and exports. This would naturally lead to massive unemployment in the country.

Sources disclosed that since the construction of big water reservoirs, Tarbella and Mangla Dams in 1970s, Pakistan has wasted 1,110 MAF water by not constructing new dams, leaving 20 million acres of cultivatable lands barren. As the water experts estimate one MAF equal to 1.5 billion dollars economic loss, Pakistan has wasted water resource to the tune of 1665 billion dollars in the last 37 years.

Consequently, an agricultural country had to import wheat and other produce from abroad, mainly due to the inadequate water management system continuing for decades. Pakistan is on the top of the list of those countries that waste 65 percent river water annually and use only 35 percent. The loss to the agriculture, industry and exports is countless.

The main reason behind this huge loss, as the analysts say, is definitely the anti-dam mindset with majority of non-technical and politically motivated people opposing new major water projects. If this continues and no new dams are constructed, they warn, the homeland may face severe famines in the coming years.

The experts further warn that when over 3 million more people would add to the population swell in the coming years amidst river/steam water storage capacity and underground water storage declining by 150,000 cusecs and 51 MAF per annum respectively, the country would not be able to address energy and irrigation issues.

Sources in the Irrigation department say that Pakistan’s storage capacity is only 9 percent against the international average of 40 percent. The total flow of water in the running rivers of Pakistan including Indus, Jhelum and Chenab is about 135 MAF but the country can save only a little quantity of it for different purposes. The country has the capacity to save water not more than for 100 days’ consumption; while the storage capacity of India is 120 days, the United States of America 900 days, Australia 600 days, South Africa 500 days.

World has been searching for more water solutions using different techniques including construction of water reservoirs and use of better irrigation techniques. As many as 95 big dams are under construction in China, 51 in Turkey, 48 in Iran, 40 in Japan and 10 in neighbouring India. The dams not only provide water for irrigation but also are a source of cheaper hydel power worldwide.

Pakistan, unluckily, not only failed to construct even a single big water reservoir after Mangla and Tarbela dams, but also failed to upgrade its irrigation system that further caused 62 percent loss of river waters. The total water storage capacity in the three big reservoirs has been reduced 27 percent. These dams can store only 14 MAF against the total capacity of 18.71 MAF, experts highlight. Adding to the precarious state, the underground water pumping that was only 3 MAF in 1959 reached to 56 MAF per annum in 2012.

The water and food experts further say that the availability of water in the past 66 years has been reduced about 400 percent. In 1951, it was 5260 cubic meter when country’s population was 34 million but reduced to 1038 cubic meters in 2013 when the population crossed 190 million people. The total wastage of water in the kharif season is 28.23 MAF annually while in rabi season it is 1.85 MAF per annum.

Noted water expert and Punjab government consultant on water issues Mehmoodul Haq Siddiqui confirmed that Pakistan had been losing its water drastically. He said if new reservoirs are not constructed in the near future, Pakistan might face worst food insecurity. He said the provinces should resolve the petty political issues and should not block construction of water reservoirs. IWC Chairman Suleman Khan said only construction of new dams would help solve our water, power, agricultural and economic problems.