Few people have realised the grim situation that the country is facing regarding its water resources. Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP), Mian Saqib Nisar is the most ardent advocate of preservation of the country’s water resources. CJP’s comments at the two-day international symposium on “Creating a Water-Secure Pakistan” are worth pondering upon. There are a lot of water-related challenges that Pakistan is facing right now and which are affecting different sectors of the country economy in ways never imagined before.

What is heart-wrenching is Pakistan’s inability to exploit the terms and conditions of Indus Water Treaty (IWT) to the maximum. On the other hand, India is not only taking full advantage of the treaty but many a time goes against the mandate given to it under the agreement that was concluded by the World Bank (WB). Given that the Indian violations of the treaty have virtually made the accord an ineffective document, it is time to revisit the agreement. Pakistan needs to take up its case before international forums, as CJP has suggested. Some experts and political analysts predict that future wars will be fought over waters. And the fear that Pakistan and India will be the first two countries to make this prediction correct is not unreal or misplaced.

Investment in supply augmentation, i.e., construction of dams and other reservoirs are one thing that the government need to focus on. However, what is more urgently required is to adopt modern techniques in the consumption of water, especially for household needs and agricultural purposes. Pakistan cannot afford to carry on with the old and traditional practices of irrigation and household consumption of water. The decline in availability of surface water from 5,260 cubic meters per year in 1951 to just above 1,000 cubic meters in 2016 is alarming. Below 1,000 cubic meters will put Pakistan on the list of the countries that are water stressed.

Right now, the situation regarding water resources amounts to an emergency. The government and other segments of the society need to give a hearing ear to the pleas of the CJP. CJP, admittedly, is not expert on water management; however, him taking up the issue of water is not an intrusion in the affairs of other branches of the government. In one way he is just fulfilling what the principle of “check and balances” demands from his office when the relevant department is lethargic and incompetent. It is high time for the government to constitute a task force that can study the modern trends of water conservation practices and come up with what techniques and steps Pakistan need to take for better management of its water resources.