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Pakistan’s Water Crisis By Waqar Ahmed

For the past several years, Pakistan has been facing a severe water crisis and it is showing no signs of abating.
According to a 2016 report by UNDP titled ‘Water security in Pakistan: Issues and challenges’, between 1990 and 2015, per capita water availability declined from 2,172 cubic metres per inhabitant, to 1,306 cubic metres per inhabitant. Also Pakistan extracts 74.3% of its fresh water annually thereby exerting tremendous pressure upon renewable water resources.
The Pakistan council research in water resources (PCRWR) in a recent report mentioned that Pakistan will approach ‘absolute scarcity’ levels of water by the year 2025. In the past, PCRWR has described that the country reached the ‘water stress line’ in 1990 and crossed the ‘water scarcity line’ in 2005.
The dominant sector which eats up approximately 91.6% of the total annual water use within the country is agriculture. This is followed by environment at 3.3%, domestic use which is around 2.6% and the industrial sector which stands at 2.5%.
All of the above mentioned statistics present a gloomy picture. Several reasons can be attributed to the alarming state of water crisis in the country.
The first major reason is water wastage. According to Water and power development authority (WAPDA) chairman Lt. Gen. (retd.) Muzamil Hussain, Pakistan wastes Rs. 25 billion worth of water every year. Additionally, two-thirds of irrigation water is lost due to system leakages.
Another big reason of the prevailing water crisis is our limited water storage capacity. Pakistan currently has a water storage capacity of just 30 days and of the total 145 million acre feet (MAF) that flows annually through the country, up to only 14 MAF can be stored. Compare this with our neighbor India which has a storage capacity of 130 days and the United States which has a capacity of 900 days.
Another big reason of the prevailing water crisis is our limited water storage capacity. Pakistan currently has a water storage capacity of just 30 days and of the total 145 million acre feet (MAF) that flows annually through the country, up to only 14 MAF can be stored. Compare this with our neighbor India which has a storage capacity of 130 days and the United States which has a capacity of 900 days.
Furthermore, Pakistan has witnessed rapid population growth over the years. According to the population census conducted in 2017, the population stood at 207 million, a 57% increase from the previous census which was conducted in 1998. The annual population growth rate is stated to be around 2.0%. If the population continues to grow at this rate, Pakistan would be ranked the fourth most populous country by 2030. This scenario would prove to be catastrophic for the already resource stretched country.
The United Nations (UN) in 2015 set 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs) for the year 2030. These 17 goals are broad based and cross-cutting and are the successors to the Millennium development goals (MDGs) which ended in 2015. The SDG 6 concerns itself with water and sanitation and to ensure the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation. Pakistan being a signatory to the SDGs has a responsibility towards ensuring that it achieves the targets by effectively implementing them by beginning from the federal level and moving right down to the district and tehsil level.
There are a number of ways through which the water crisis can be mitigated.
One way is to increase the public awareness by running awareness campaigns regarding water wastage and responsible use of water in household chores. There is also a dire need to construct new small dams in the country which would aid in conserving more water. Modern and innovative solutions can also be implemented such as the use of drip irrigation, micro-irrigation, and low-energy precision sprinklers.
In light of the current water crisis, all the relevant stakeholders should focus their collective energies towards resolving this critical issue on which our entire future depends since without water no life is possible. There is a drastic needto change our mindsets in order to avoid endangering our future generations.
Waqar Ahmed works in the development sector and writes on social issues. He can be contacted at waqar_91@hotmail.com
Source: https://dailytimes.com.pk/481708/pakistans-water-crisis-3/

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