World Water Day, 22nd March, is held annually to emphasize the importance of water and management of fresh water resources in the world. The day was recommended at the World Summit or UN conference on environment and development held at Brazil in 1992 and declared as the World Water Day by the United Nations.

Water, the so called “Silver capital” today is more precious than dollar and pound. And now that some giant corporations in the world have taken over the control of potable water, his own statement- “although it (water) is vital to life, it costs almost nothing, whereas diamonds which are useless for survival, cost a fortune” would have come as a big surprise to economist Adam Smith.

Water experts elsewhere have classified various sources of fresh water in relation to food production as green water footprint, representing the amount of rainwater consumed, and the blue water footprint, that of the surface water (rivers, lakes etc.) and ground water consumed during food production (i.e. evaporated or incorporated into the product – which is not returned to the catchment from which it was drawn), while the grey water footprint indicates the volume which is needed to assimilate the load of pollutants ( i.e. the volume required to maintain an agreed water quality standard).

It is thus easy to assess the impact of food production on the hydrological cycle from the stand point of water availability and consumption. Beef production has, for instance, an average of 93% green, 4% blue, 3% grey water footprint, compared to that of wheat production which points to the need of much bigger quantities of water to assimilate the load of pollutants in case of beef.

Accordingly, a measure of water scarcity developed by the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) takes into account a country’s water infrastructure, such as water in desalination plants, available water including recycled water by water demand determined solely by consumptive use rather than total withdrawals, its potential for infrastructure development and efficiency improvements. Keeping in view the low per capita investment in water infrastructure and efficiency in management it is not difficult to judge if Pakistan could be able to meet the future needs of its burgeoning population, being water scarce today. At the first ever water summit held by Pakistan in 2014, it was declared that a national water policy is being evolved.

The Indus Water Treaty brokered by the World Bank on Sept 19, 1960, between the two countries allowed India the exclusive use of waters of Ravi, Sutlej and Bias for irrigation, and power production and deprived people on the flanks of these rivers in Pakistan of surface water for irrigation and crop production. As a result they resorted to ground water pumping for drinking and crop production which pushed the water tables deep down. According to NESPAK , the district of Lahore, for instance, receives water pumped from a depth of 120-200 meters. The underground waters in the region along the above three rivers have been receiving yet an additional blowfrom pumping by people from across the border. As a former US ambassador to Pakistan, Anne Paterson says if the waters of Kabul river were further diverted it would deal a severe blow of 14% reduction (or an obstruction of 4.7 MAF water) to the flow of water to the Indus not to speak of the construction of Kishanganga and Baglihar dams on the western rivers- Chenab and Jhelum and the adverse effect on Mangla Dam.

Over the years, however, due to the policy makers being remiss to evolve a water policy and strategy Pakistan has suffered, according to an estimate, a cumulative loss of ca. US$ 1.5 trillion dollars or an annual US$ 3.5 billion as a sequel to water disputes and political ill will over the construction of large, rain-fed reservoirs (dams) irrespective of the significance of Kala Bagh dam to the country for water for drinking. food production and energy.

The construction of dams in the US during “dust bowl” years of 30s is a remarkable example of water strategy, patriotism and preparedness of a country for the proverbial “Rainy day”.

Pakistan had a population of 32.5million in 1947 which doubled by 1972, and as of today, it stands at over 190 million although it was amongst the first few countries of the world to adopt a family planning programme. Accordingly, the per capita availability of water in the country declined from 5000 m3 in 1947 to ca. 800 m3 per capita today, which according to Falkenmark indicator, falls in the category of countries classified by the World Bank as water scarce. Water barrier differentiation proposed by Falkenmark (1989) Index (m3 per capita) is Category/Condition >1,700 No Stress, 1,000-1,700 Stress, 500-1,000 Scarcity.

According to some experts, Falkenmark indicator or index appears to under-etimate the impact of smaller populations, and excludes the so-called Grey water characteristic of salt affected ,barren lands in the world. In Pakistan alone, which has more than 60 per cent of its land degraded with underground water being brackish and unfit for irrigation and drinking.

The amounts of water needed to produce a commodity, food or fibre is termed by economists as “virtual water” such as one kg of coffee is 20,000 litres while the amounts of water needed for one kg paper , one million ton of steel, one megawatt –hour electricity or a cotton T- shirt, are 300, 215,000, 2000-5000, and 7000 litres respectively. Pakistan could thus be better off limiting production of high delta crops and export of virtual water to manage its shortfalls in water.

Pollution in the world has outgrown supply of water, and the only water available for drinking in many countries of the world including Pakistan is often polluted with human waste, industrial effluents and agricultural runoff, leading to sickness and even death from water borne diseases. According to UNICEF 70,000 children die of water borne diseases every year in Pakistan.

In the USA, a public-private partnership developed by the University of Philadelphia (including Wharton School of Business) and the local government on water issues, is an excellent example of green governance and sustainable resource management. In municipios movement seeking interaction between the local government and the stakeholders for basic urban services such as water in Leon, Nacaragua, there is a lesson for us. A “ One student-One tree” tree planting initiative by the author at GCUF in 2010, was made part of the curriculum by the then administration to add to efforts to thwart climate change. Unfortunately, it was later discontinued and forgotten once for all.