Water scarcity in Pakistan: Challenges and way forward

By: Yusra Aziz

Karachi: Water is one of the most important natural resources. It covers one-third of the area of the earth. Pakistan has the world’s fourth-highest rate of water use. Unfortunately, due to lack of proper measures for securing and preserving natural resources, our country is suffering from water scarcity, that is likely to wreak havoc on the country in the coming years. Researchers predict that Pakistan is on its way to becoming the most water-stressed country in the region by the year 2040. It is not the first time that development and research organizations have alerted Pakistani authorities about the coming crisis, which some analysts say poses a bigger threat to the country than terrorism. In 2016, PCRWR reported that Pakistan touched the “water stress line” in 1990 and crossed the “water scarcity line” in 2005. If this situation persists, Pakistan could “run dry” by 2025.

Experts say that population growth and urbanization are the main reasons behind the crisis. The issue has also been worsened due to climate change, poor water management and a lack of political actions lead to this crisis. Water scarcity in Pakistan has been also accompanied by rising temperatures. In May, at least 65 people died from heatstroke in the southern city of Karachi. In 2015, at least 1,200 people died during a spate of extremely hot weather. Global warming and climate change have affected the monsoon season and annual rainfall received. The annual water available has reduced from 1,500 cubic meters per capita in 2009 to only 1,017 cubic meters. That’s barely above the minimum requirement of a thousand. Farmers are likely to feel the pinch in the form of in-season water shortages, which in turn, will affect their crop growth and delay harvesting, resulting in reduced production. The Tarbela and Mangla dams, the country’s two major water reservoirs, reached their “dead” levels. We have only these two big reservoirs and we can save water only for 30 days. Pakistan receives around 145 million acre-feet of water every year but can only save 13.7 million acre-feet. Pakistan needs 40 million acre-feet of water but 29 million acre-feet of our floodwater are wasted because we have few dams. Pakistan is storing less water among the available surface flows due to lack of significant storage. Apart from the water storage issue, experts say that water wastage is also a big issue in the country.

The federal and provincial government must take proper policies in water to save the shortage of water. Public awareness has to be created about the matter and domestic level sensitization should be developed. Small, basic steps such as adopting a minimal approach towards the use of water can save gallons per day. Next step should be to build new reservoirs at all scales to store the monsoon surplus and reduce downstream flood peaks. The awareness and importance of harvesting rainwater should be emphasized down to the school level. Citizens should be told to build underground water tanks to harvest rainwater to be used in times of need. Meanwhile, immediate measures should be taken to build reservoirs to store water. It is time we thought in terms of conserving water to overcome the looming crisis. Plantation of trees, as the world grapples with rising temperatures, scientists are trying to find ways to utilize forests to influence rainfall patterns in areas experiencing water shortages or severe drought. Growing trees take water from the soil and release it into the atmosphere. Tree leaves also act as interceptors, catching falling rain, which then evaporates causing rain precipitation elsewhere. By better understanding this process, we may, one day, be able to strategically plant trees that will bring rain to regions that need it most.

Water is not only important to people and animals, but to plants as well. So, if we look deeper, it’s easy to see that if there was no water to feed the plants, there would be no oxygen for us. Water also provides us with a great number of multiple benefits. Taking into consideration the intensity of the challenge and urgency of the matter, these key integral steps have to be taken without delay. The civil society needs to step up as sensitization agents and the people need to adopt basic lifestyle changes. We need to do this for the next generation.

The writer is a student of Jinnah University for Women, Karachi.

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About Social and Development log of Pakistan (SDLP)

Social and Development log of Pakistan (SDLP) is an attempt to highlights real public issues, which include social, economic and political issues, and complete policy analysis of that issues having experts opinion and analysis on it. SDLP will raise all public issues on the basis of facts and try to advocate at the highest forum which may influence the policy-makers and draw their attention towards the real problem. SDLP also welcomes contributions to our blog. For that you may send your queries/suggestions/articles etc at rajataimur1@gmail.com. Twitter: https://twitter.com/SDLPak or @taimur__ Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SDLPak
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