Water Dearth and Forthcoming Challenges in Pakistan

𝙈𝙨. 𝙈𝙖𝙧𝙮𝙖𝙢 𝙀𝙦𝙖𝙣, 𝙂𝙧𝙚𝙚𝙣 𝘽𝙡𝙤𝙜𝙜𝙚𝙧

Water is a critical source for the living of the people and continuous progress of any economy. For Pakistan, it takes on more worth, as the economy is agrarian in nature and depends on the only source, the Indus Basin, to meet most of its water requirements. According to UN , “ water stresses are considered high if the TRWR (total renewable water resources) value is above 25% and Pakistan has the value of 74%”.  Hence, water availability and its efficient utilization lie in the core of any approach designed for saving water for future, guaranteeing food security and realizing a continued longstanding economic progress.
The State of Pakistan states in their annual report 16-17 that the water issues we are confronting now-a-days consist of restricted storage capacity which leads to canal water scarcities and extreme losses to the Arabian Sea. The present storage capacity is insufficient as the three chief water reservoirs in Pakistan, i.e. Mangla (1967), Tarbela (1978) and Chashma (1971), have a over-all calculated capacity of 15.75 MAF, which has faced a decline to 13.1 MAF owing to sedimentation. These reservoirs can accumulate water comparable to 30 days of consumption, whereas the standard minimum requirement is 120 days; most of the innovative countries have capacities of 1-2 years. Furthermore, Pakistan’s live storage capacity is 150 cubic meters per person.  Secondly, the transboundary disputes are escalating river supply susceptibility. Then we have an obsolete distribution system results in little productivity and unfair distribution of water.
The foremost issue which is causing deterioration in our groundwater resource is that we are reducing it rapidly due to over-pumping. Groundwater has turned out to be a noteworthy source of water, as its contribution in agricultural land irrigation has folded in the preceding 40 years from (25.6 to 50.2 MAF). This is equal to 50 percent of total canal water extraction for irrigation. Industrial and domestic sector also rely on groundwater resources for water supply. Even in the domestic sector, unmonitored groundwater exploitation is on the upsurge due to inappropriate water provision. In Faisalabad for example, households have switched to groundwater as a result of incompetent supplies and non-monitoring by local WASA.
Tremendously low water tariffs are one among the reason of distorting incentives for water conservation. Little retrieval and underfunded water infrastructure contributing to high water losses and waste discharge into drains and rivers has led to deteriorating water quality. According to a study, 50 million people in the country are at risk of arsenic poisoning from contaminated groundwater. Precisely, the underground water samples had arsenic level of over 200 micrograms per liter, which was considerably higher than the WHO’s reference of 10 micrograms and the government’s limit of 50 micrograms.
Gaps in governance is one among the cause that is leading to inefficient management of water. The overall leading structure of the water sector in Pakistan is characterized by several authorities with overlying responsibilities and doubling of work. Economic crisis and political conflicts are diverting the attention of higher authorities from this vital issue.
Water scarcity is leading to multiple of upcoming challenges. Firstly, climate change will augment the demand for water, while a number of factors (e.g., rising population, rapid urbanization, increase in income, etc.) will push up the demand for water in the country, a strong stimulus would come from the climate change. Explicitly, the increase in temperature would entail more water for irrigation due to lengthy dry and warmer season; For farm animals to meet their hydration needs; for individuals to handle with higher atmospheric temperature; for industries to look out for amplified cooling requirements; and for release into the sea so that intrusion of saline water into delta regions could be prevented. It is predictable to disturb the ice and snow buildup patterns in the zones that supply Indus Basin with its flows. The overall river provisions would come under pressure as mounting temperatures would surge evaporation losses in the system. Simultaneously, the change in climate would swing the peak flow points in time. Another influence of climate change is the random future water outcomes in the upper Indus Basin because of precipitation changeability. Climate change will upshot in sharp rainfall variability in the catchment areas of the Indus Basin is anticipated to disturb groundwater resources. Government must enforce raising water rates to bring at par with the operation and maintenance cost that is required in evolving supply infrastructure through metering and safeguarding connections so as to charge.
To combat the growing scarcity of water in our country government and relevant authorities should run awareness campaign, increase on farm application efficiency, improve conveyance efficiency, motivate industrialists and farmers, improve surface irrigation method, change the cropping pattern and crop varieties, legalize ground water, take on skimming well projects, identify new water storage sites, revitalize depleting aquifers, recognize the focal point organization, involve Water User Organization (WUOs) and deliver farmers with information on water supplies on short term basis.
On longer term, regulatory framework on groundwater must be established, large and small storage reservoirs should be installed, methods of forecasting about drought and floods must be improved, water distribution issues among the provinces must be resolved and activities like identification of fresh groundwater areas, institutional improvements, finding and development of new resources, installation of highly efficient irrigation system, undertaking of watershed management, controlling evaporation loss from the reservoirs and formulation of national water-policy must be continued.


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