WATER is the driving force for all nature; it is fittingly called the Blue Gold of the world. The wars of the future will be fought over water. The lack of water or its poor quality kills 10 times more people than all the wars combined. Water crisis is a global phenomena and it is anticipated that Lucifer is going to burn South Asia with global warming and water crisis. Pakistan is the world’s fourth-highest water consuming country with its water intensity, amount and cubic meters used. The fact makes it crystal clear that our economy is enormously water dependent. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) measures the pressure on national water resources by calculating water withdrawal as a percentage of total renewable water resources (TRWR). Stresses are considered high if the TRWR value is above 25%. Pakistan’s water pressure amounts to a staggering 74 %. The pressure is excessive even compared with neighbouring high-pressured countries, including India at 34 % and Afghanistan 31%. The country is anticipated to become water scant less than five hundred cubic meters per capita annually by 2035. About 80 % of cultivated land in Pakistan is irrigated, of which about 33 % is affected by water logging and soil salinity, leading to significant declines of 25 % in crop yields, chiefly downstream which are the outcome of water pollution. Pakistan despite its geo-political and socio-economical vitality in the Asian region is a water stressed country.
A few years back, the IMF issued a report positioning Pakistan third in the world among countries facing water scarcity. The researchers have anticipated that Pakistan is sliding to water stressed countries by 2040 and according to some researchers the country could run dry by 2025-30 as water level is touching the distressing echelon. Another dilemma is that we waste an unimaginable quantity of water annually due to unavailability of dams to store water. We have butchered forests. In 1947, the forests covered 5% of the nation’s area which has now dropped to 2%. Many dams which could prove a fort to fight and win water wars have been slaughtered in the name of water politics. While comparing our reservoirs with neighboring India, we have the capacity to save water only for 30 days and India can do it for 190. The US can do it for 900 days. Pakistan receives around 145 million acre feet of water annually but it is saddening to say that we can save only 13.7 million acre feet. We need 40 million acre feet water but 29 million acre feet of our flood water is wasted because of unavailability of dam and water politics.
India has also raised the water wastage issue on international level reprimanding us for water wastage and leading for water control of western rivers. We must bear the fact in mind our eternal enemy India is preparing to wage a water war against Pakistan. Water crisis is not as simple as the machinery is dreaming about, it is triggering security conflicts. We are wasting 100 liters for washing a car with running tap water. We should follow the motto “Save water, Save Pakistan”. Although national water crisis policy has been announced nothing has been practically done yet. Political parties prioritize their coming elections, not the coming generations. The Government and policy makers have not turned a deaf ear to the looming future calamity. The reports by UNDP and the Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources (PCRWR) have also cautioned about utter water dearth in the near future.
Nail Buhne, UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Pakistan has vividly emphasized that the water catastrophe will impinge on everyone either from glacier regions or from desert zones. The development and research organizations have alerted the government machinery earlier many times about the impeding calamity by calling it a bigger threat than terrorism. PCRWR cautioned in 2016 about crossing the water scarcity line but no solid step has yet been taken in this regard. 2017 caused to bring Lucifer heat wave sweeping across the globe resulting droughts, wildfires, temperature augmentation and death. According to the IMF, Pakistan’s per capita annual water availability is 1,017 cubic meters which is dangerously close to the insufficiency doorsill of 1,000 cubic meters. Back in 2009, Pakistan’s water accessibility was about 1,500 cubic meters. The bulk of Pakistan’s agricultural lands are hosed down via canal system, but the IMF report depicts that the canal system is enormously insufficient due to negligence toward their maintenance. Agriculture, which consumes almost the whole annual obtainable surface water, is largely untaxed. Population escalation and urbanization are the key factors behind the crisis which is further escalated by climatic change, mismanagement and a lack of political will to get rid of Damocles’ Sword.
The water resources of the country are depleting rapidly, despite Michael Kuglman, the South Asian expert at Washington-based Woodrow Wilson Centre cautioned the Secretary at the Ministry of Water about the creepy water situation for Pakistan, the Ministry has not awakened yet. Water depletion has caused climatic changes in the country. The Lucifer Heat wave in Karachi resulted in the demise of 65 people due to heat stroke in 2015 and at least 1,200 during a spat of extremely hot weather. The death toll is mounting annually. The recent drastic rain spell in Karachi and country-wide flood devastation is also the outcome of climatic changes. The sea level is increasing alarmingly along with the temperature level of oceans. The melting glacier ratio has amounted to 4% as compared to the past. The monsoons have turned from boom to doom and the winter season has shrivelled from 4 to 2 months. These issues will remain persistent until more sustainable irrigation practices are put in place. Karachi has been in the clutches of the Water Mafia a few years back which should be considered as a harbinger of the coming future water crisis. We should not sit waiting for God but we must move ahead with zeal and zest to cope with the future sinister water crisis before it is too late.
—The writer is Prof in English and Freelance Columnist, based in Lahore.