Where the 2010 floods wreaked devastation on human lives, stripping away infrastructure, agriculture and livestock, they also highlighted Pakistan’s impoverished water storage capacity due to which we have lost billions of worth of water in the recurring floods since 2010.
Pakistan’s water crisis can be allotted to a myriad of political impasses yet the key area where the state has demonstrated a severe lack of accomplishment remains the lack of political will to give due attention to such a cataclysmic issue, resulting in poor policy formulation in tackling it. Despite the recurring water loss, the establishment has been unable to curtail the poor management of water resources, or the increasing dependency on water by an unchecked population growth. Where our burgeoning industrial sector consumes and pollutes water in epic proportions our stagnating agricultural sector remains obsolete in managing its water consumption, contributing to waterlogging and salinization.
The solution, on paper, is just as obvious as the crisis that demands it; to avoid acute water scarcity that already plagues many areas in the country, Pakistan must store 40pc of its water, by increasing storage through the construction of dams, introducing a groundwater regulatory framework and controlling population growth. To bring this elusive solution to effective realization, what is needed is an immediate shift in political priorities.
Where political parties resort to mud-slinging and finger pointing, and state institutions conflate their responsibilities with political agendas for patronage, issues like climate change, water scarcity and population growth will remain neglected.
Water management requires effective policy formation to be allotted imperative human and financial resources, collaboration in the field of education and culture and a trans-boundary water cooperation which is central to ensuring peace and stability in the region.
Being a lower riparian country to India, Pakistan is dependent upon the upstream ecosystems to provide the water supply for irrigation, drinking and generating hydropower deeming the Indus Water Treaty as inviolable for the water needs of Pakistan. The number of hydropower projects that India is building on the rivers whose waters belong to Pakistan under the Indus Waters Treaty is increasing.
Yet where it is imperative that water diplomacy between both countries does not falter under boundary disputes and animosity, it is equally imperative that the Pakistani state reassesses its water management policies, and the state institutions put their resources in salvaging the water resources that we do have instead of latching onto the treaty while the water resources we could be shoring up on to meet our needs, literally go down the drain.