Pakistan Tehreek Insaf (PTI) will soon enter parliament as the new ruling party; the party will be confronted with some of the most pressing challenges that the previous government failed to solve. The depleting water resources of Pakistan pose a multifaceted challenge to Pakistan’s survival. The poor performance of past governments –along with factors like environmental degradation and climate change– has turned the country into one of the most water-stressed countries in the world. Furthermore, India’s continuous constructions on Jehlum and Chenab rivers against the terms of the Indus Water Treaty, 1960 (IWT) has added to the water woes of Pakistan.
The caretaker Minister for Water Resources Ali Zafar while speaking at a news conference has already informed the new government in advance about the severity of the problem. Pakistan has experienced a reduction in its water share that IWT grants it because of India’s constant violations of IWT. Despite knocking the door of the World Bank (WB), so far, Pakistan has not achieved any considerable victory in its water disputes with India.
It is deplorable to see that Pakistan has not even fulfilled the commitments it had made with itself after signing the IWT. Instead of constructing, at least, eight dams to ensure no depletion occurs in its water share, Pakistan, since then, has built only two dams, i.e., Tarbela and Mangla. According to a study by Indus River System Authority (IRSA), Pakistan dumps $21 billion worth of water in the sea each year for the country lacks adequate water conservation and storage facilities. It comes as a great shock to witness the sheer incompetence of relevant Pakistani authorities to exploit the terms of IWT that grants Pakistan an unrestricted water use rights on the rivers mentioned before.
The caretaker minister also stressed the need for adopting modern techniques for water conservation. He is not wrong in suggesting that the water techniques that Pakistan use for irrigation purposes are not only out-dated but also unable to conserve water. Mr Zafar has quite rightly highlighted that Pakistan’s water problems do not hinge on building Kala Bagh Dam –as many experts have already concluded– but a solution to our water problems require a sophisticated and protracted international arbitration process as well.
Dealing with the water issues will be a question that will haunt the newly elected PTI government. It will be the biggest challenge for Imran’s government to convince WB that India is in constant violations of IWT. Given that India has completed some of the disputed projects and others are near completion, the only ground that Pakistan can use to argue its case against Indian plans is the environmental one.