“In an age when man is blind even to his most essential needs for survival, water along with other resources has become the victim

of his indifference,”

–Rachel Carson.

The United Nations Conference on Environment and Development held at Brazil in 1992 declared March 22 as World Water Day. The day is celebrated throughout the world to mark the implementation of the UN recommendations (Earth Summit Agenda 21), to work out proposals and arrange activities to emphasize reduction in wasteful consumption of resources such as water.

Water on earth (the water planet) exists as liquid, solid and gas. The total amount of groundwater on earth, apparently small in volume, is 35 times greater than the volume of water in all the fresh water lakes and rivers of the world Whatever is available to mankind from lakes, rivers, aquifers (ground water) and rainfall run-off is under great pressure with demand for diverse human activities. According to Global Footprint Network, man uses today an equivalent of 1.5 planet earths and thus has overshot the sustainable levels by half an earth.

According to the Hague Ministerial Conference (2000) on water security in the twentieth century, there is a water crisis today; water is being so badly managed that billions of people in the world, and the environment suffer. Some examples of water crises around the globe such as that of China with too much water being where it is not needed and with too little where it is much needed.

The Netherlands offers a good example of the success story of the healthy management of water. In view of the unworkable systems of rules and regulations and the complex and interdependent environmental problems, the Government of the Netherlands decided to identify all major environmental problems and meet with the key players such as industrialists and citizen groups etc to reach agreement on establishing bold new targets and time tables for drastically reducing pollution.

As an effect of climate change in 2011, the Mississippi river was flooded and water flowed at the rate of 2.8 million cubic feet per second – an amount equivalent to thirty rimes the average volume of water falling from the Niagara Falls, The US army corps of engineers was at the helm to control the catastrophic inundation. As of today, people, cities and industries in the US and elsewhere obtain water in part, at least, from the reservoirs of flood control projects.

While Pakistan faced a water deficit of nearly 34 MAF for its Rabi crops soon after the great flood of 2010, according to published data some 800,000 cusecs of water on average flows through the Sukkur Barrage en route to the Arabian Sea. The first wave of the great flood comprising 95.4 MAF water flowed to the sea vis-à-vis 34 MAF; an amount equivalent to the storage capacity of five Kalabagh dams.

While the water availability per person in Pakistan has decreased precipitously from about 5000 cubic meters per person in 1947 to 1000 cubic meters today (classifying us as water stressed), the dreadful water episodes such as that of 2010 underscore the need for large, rain-fed reservoirs (dams) irrespective of the significance of Kalabagh dam to the country for water for drinking, food production and energy.

In contrast to the efforts of individuals, the municipal bodies and the NGOs to ease the accessibility of potable water to people across the world, some global corporations and corporate sectors use water as a commodity. For example, Veolia, a $38 billion company in Paris promised more than it could in Bolivia, Argentina, Uruguay, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, South Africa and other countries.

Water supplies in England and France have also dwindled and the major transnational corporations such as Perrier, Evian, Naya, Coke and Pepsi have already started buying up rights for fresh water worldwide to supply bottled water to people at a cost, according to Canadian water activists, Professor Maude Barlow and Professor Tony Clark.

In 2011, Italy polled for a decision not to allow the corporate sector to take over the water supply from the municipalities. However, except for Uruguay, water activists in Bolivia, Argentina and Chile forced the private corporations out to leave water activities in these countries to be managed by the respective municipal bodies.

Water is needed to produce food accounts for 2000-5000 litres  per day while for basic human needs such as drinking, only 4 litres (1 gallon) per person per day is needed. In addition an amount of 250 gallons (1000 litres) of water per person is needed to produce power that we use at home daily.

The enormity of the beneficiaries of goods and services from dams- both large and small in the country is not difficult to judge in view of increased population, the lack of preservation of watersheds, recurrent floods, the perils of drought and climate change. While population growth and global warming are ever on the rise, they are likely to produce a big decline in the world water resources in the coming years, and the situation in Pakistan, already facing these twin problems could be highly grim.

The writer is ex-director NIAB, Faisalabad, former HEC professor, UAF, ex-professor of Environmental Sciences, GCUF, and former member of the New York Academy of Sciences, USA.