BY: Amjad Ali Zardari

Pakistan is running out of fresh water and has been experiencing critical water shortages. The water flow in the Indus Basin irrigation system IBIS averages for last few years is 95 to 97 MAF against a 112 MAF average of past 10 years.

Development and research organizations such as International Monetary Fund (IMF), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources (PCRWR) have persistently been advised Pakistan authorities that country will reach absolute water scarcity by 2025. Moreover, Researchers also believe that Pakistan is on its way to becoming the most water-stressed country in the region by the year 2040. Some geopolitical expert claims that the water crisis is imminent and is a bigger threat to the country than the terrorism.

The shortage will be devastating for a country with an agriculture-based economy. Over 60% population of Pakistan is directly or indirectly associated with the agriculture sector. Agriculture sector accounts for 23% of its gross domestic product (GDP).

Experts believed that the growing population and urbanizations are the leading causes of the water crisis in Pakistan. A number of other factors contributing to the water problem include: Reduced rainfall, Poor water management from rivers to water courses, Poor handling of industrial wastewater, Climate change, Lack of political will to address the governing issues, Change in food consumption patterns and lack of proper water storage facilities, Wastage of drinking water in unproductive means like washing cars and garden at homes.

Tarbela and Mangla dams are the two main water reservoirs in Pakistan reached dead level recently; triggering a debate in the country over the want of seriousness by PTI led the government to face the water crisis. Moreover, water crisis deepens in Sindh, Baluchistan and South Punjab that also affecting provincial Inter harmony. Both these major reservoirs can only store up to 14 MAF from that annual flow of water through the country that is only for one-month utilization for all purposes.

Due to the dearth of water into the water system, farmers largely depend on groundwater. This puts extra pressure on the groundwaterthan is replenished naturally from underground.

Unfortunately, Water was sold by those who were least bothered with the irrigation land in Pakistan. They sold water within a wink without thinking about the future generations of Pakistan, the units and the areas whose water was sold. The seller of river water belonged to the upper areas of Pakistan now and then constitute Pakistani Kashmir, Hazara (former Kashmir areas) KPK, central and North West Punjab.

Three rivers Ravi, Sutlej, and Beasewater was exchanged with two major Dams Terbella and Mangla, and settlement of displaced population of these damsareas in the United Kingdom plus a right of Dams electricity production to the KPK and Pakistani Kashmir. This took place under the dictatorship of Mr. Ayub Khan the then army chief. No consent whatsoever was sought from the political leadership of the very areas to whom the three rivers water belonged. Even such dams’ and many more could have built by Pakistan with low-interest rate loans from friendly countries like China and donor agencies and using our own resources.

“Moreover, water crisis deepens in Sindh, Baluchistan and South Punjab that also affecting provincial Inter harmony.”

Pakistans water paucity is the main problem and its solution is to increase storage capacity by building small, medium and large scale dams; and another key problem is inefficient water flow through the rivers to canals to watercourses due to slit gathering in rivers, canals. Another major problem is water logging and salinity. Over 09 million Sindhs coastal area land has been under seawater and it is uncultivated since quite a few decades due to non-availability of required 10 MAF water to flow to sea every year to save this land and its environment which has badly been affected.

To optimize available water is to solve scarcity of water until dams to be built up through the lining of canals and the use of water for agriculture such as laser leveling, drip irrigation and sprinklers which can help to minimize water wastage at a farm level. By drip irrigation, there will be no wastage of water through the evaporation. A sprinkler washes the leaves of plants and increases the photosynthesis.

Pakistan is majorly a water-driven economy; the water scarcity would create an economic crisis in Pakistan that may lead to an economic collapse in the future. Moreover, successive governments have been struggling to address this key economic issue but failed to address because of time and again establishment created a political crisis in Pakistan. The Agriculture department ought to keep urging and facilitating farmers in shifting their focus to modern, efficient and effective irrigation tools to supplant outdated irrigation methods.