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Water Crisis

IMPLICATIONS FOR THE SOCIO- ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT OF PAKISTAN

Introduction

Our world is full of innumerable natural resources. While some of these have been discovered with their benefits identified, many still remain to be unearthed. However, of all the known natural resources to man, water undisputedly continues to stand out as the most important of all. This is because water is available almost everywhere around the globe in varying quantities. This fact makes it a key contributor in the sustenance of both, environment and human life. Moreover, it is not only the most distributed substance on earth but is usable in almost all its forms as well.

Water on earth is known to exist in three states; solid, gas (invisible vapors) and liquid. Experts have identified assessment of earths total water storage, as an exigent task. This is because water is very dynamic as a substance. It is in an unrelenting process of conversion from liquid to solid to vapors state and vice versa. However, by recent estimates an immense amount of almost 1386 million cubic kilometers of water is found in earth’s hydrosphere.

However, only 2.5% of this water accounts for fresh water while rest is saline water found in vast oceans on earth. In addition, 68.7% of this fresh water forms the permanent snow cover of Antarctic, the Arctic and mountainous regions on Earth and is therefore inaccessible to humans at present. Furthermore, 29.9% are fresh ground waters. Only 0.26% of the total amount of fresh waters on the Earth is accumulated in lakes, reservoirs, and river systems.

Global Water Crisis

Ironically, our entire human race is entirely dependent on the least available form of water for its survival; fresh water. So far humans have failed to discover anything nearly as life sustaining as water. One reason being that they never felt the need for it. For hundreds of years humans have used water without significantly impacting the natural water resources and their availability. However, during recent decades we have started to witness drastic changes in availability of water both, at local and global level. These changes were triggered by industrialization and consequent development in world economy, expansion of irrigated land and urbanization. Global water withdrawal therefore, is consistently increasing since the 1950’s.

from liquid to solid to vapors state and vice versa. However, by recent estimates an immense amount of almost 1386 million cubic kilometers of water is found in earth’s hydrosphere.

However, only 2.5% of this water accounts for fresh water while rest is saline water found in vast oceans on earth. In addition, 68.7% of this fresh water forms the permanent snow cover of Antarctic, the Arctic and mountainous regions on Earth and is therefore inaccessible to humans at present. Furthermore, 29.9% are fresh ground waters. Only 0.26% of the total amount of fresh waters on the Earth is accumulated in lakes, reservoirs, and river systems.

Global Water Crisis

Ironically, our entire human race is entirely dependent on the least available form of water for its survival; fresh water. So far humans have failed to discover anything nearly as life sustaining as water. One reason being that they never felt the need for it. For hundreds of years humans have used water without significantly impacting the natural water resources and their availability. However, during recent decades we have started to witness drastic changes in availability of water both, at local and global level. These changes were triggered by industrialization and consequent development in world economy, expansion of irrigated land and urbanization. Global water withdrawal therefore, is consistently increasing since the 1950’s.

It is an undeniable fact that water is critical to human survival. It ensures human health, environmental stability, social welfare, economic development and a regions security. However, recent studies on water availability draw a grim picture. According to the estimates of United Nation, the condition is alarming and likely to get worse in near future. According to the source, it is believed that at least 40% of world population will not have an adequate supply of water by 2015. Moreover, one third of world population will find water shortages affecting their livelihoods by 2025.

According to Population Action International, an area is classified as having water stress when its annual water supplies drop below 1700 m3 per person. Water scarcity, on the other hand means that the annual water supply is below 1000 m3 per person. Large disparities between usage of water and the available water resources of a region lead to conditions of water stress. It causes decline in available resources of fresh water in terms of quantity (aquifer over-exploitation, dry rivers, etc.) and quality (organic matter pollution, saline intrusion, etc.) both.

Hence, the world today stands at the precipice of a worldwide water crisis. The world’s population has tripled in 20th century and is expected to increase by another 50% in next fifty years. The population growth coupled with demands from industrialization and urbanization are bound to increase the demand for water supply even more. According to Population Action International, by the year 2050 almost 48 countries will experience water stress or water scarcity conditions. This means that about 2.8 billion people will be affected directly by the global water crisis. Still our estimated use of fresh water is expected to rise by 40% over the next two decade.

Factors Leading To Water Crisis

Fresh water has been the life line of all human civilizations around the world. However, this fresh water accounts for only 1% of what is available for human use. To complicate the matters further, the fresh water supplies are under serious threat due to a number of environmental, political and demographic factors. As a result, forecasts regarding future water shortages are proving to be accurate with critical implications for human survival on earth.

Environmental Factors

Climate change is a major contributor to the question of water security. Every geographical region has a certain kind of climate which determines the way life is organized there. Climate change hence, refers to change in this long-term average weather of any region or of Earth as a whole. Many experts hold global warming responsible for these drastic changes in world climate. According to a UN report the average temperature of the earth’s surface has risen by 0.74 degrees C since the late 1800s. More alarmingly if required actions are not taken on time, this rate is expected to rise by another 1.8° C to 4° C by the year 2100.

Such profound changes in temperature have already started to impact water availability in different parts of the world. The sea-levels are significantly rising and ice caps and glaciers are melting at a frighteningly high rate. The incidence of flooding has increased followed by droughts in various regions. Chances are that if this climate change carries on unabated, the rising sea levels will lead to flooding of river deltas and underwater aquifers with salt water. Hence, climate change and global warming are adversely affecting both, the quality and quantity of available water and in turn adding further pressure on dwindling water supplies of the world.

Pollution is another reason behind the heightened prospects of water insecurity in our modern world. All around the globe, rivers are paying the heavy price of human development. Studies show that in developing countries, roughly 90-95% of all domestic sewage and 75% of all industrial waste is discharged into surface waters without any treatment.

Many regions today, although classified as high rainfall regions are also claiming shortage of water. One of the principal reasons behind this is land degradation. Land degradation has become a problem for many countries with far-reaching implications for water availability in future. Urbanization and deforestation reduces the land available that can hold and absorb water. A piece of land is degraded when it has significantly reduced vegetative cover leading to reduction in the soils ability to hold water. Even high level of rainfall proves to be detrimental as it results in flash runoff. Land degradation also causes decreased seepage and reduced aquifer recharge. Low availability of water makes agricultural activities difficult and leads to shortages in safe drinking water as well.

Deforestation poses further challenges to water availability in any region. It has become one of the most pressing environmental crises of the hour. For instance, deforestation is widespread in Asia at the moment. The forest cover of the continent is shrinking by 1 percent a year. Forests are important for water availability of any region because they protect the soil from adverse affects of extreme rainfalls and temperatures. Absence of adequate number of trees can lead to intense flooding, droughts, soil erosion and desertification.

Demographic Factors

At the beginning of the 20th century, the world’s population was roughly 1.6 billion people, but by 1990 it had increased to around 5.3 billion—an increase of 330 percent. Currently, the world’s population is increasing by around 80 million per year and is expected to reach 8.5 billion by the year 2025. Roughly half of this population will live in Asia. Population growth in Asia is seen as a major challenge for water security in the region.

Urbanization

Urbanization has been a recent phenomenon, one of the most striking developments of the past century. For instance, in Africa alone 38 percent of populations resides in urban centers. According to the “State of World Population 2001”Africa has the highest annual urban growth in the world at more than 4 percent. The Asia- Pacific region shares the same concerns over consistently increasing trends of urban growth. Asia has 35 percent of its total population residing in major cities.

The same report predicts that the number of city dwellers is expected to double in the next 30 years, from 1.9 billion to 3.9 billion if necessary measures are not taken. With increasing population in cities the demand for consumption of resources increases as well. The report estimates that at present, the urban areas account for 80 percent of total carbon emissions, 75 percent of all wood use and 60 percent of fresh water’s total consumption.

Hence, as the population increases in the urban areas, the consumption pattern increase and so does the over-exploitation of available water resources. Water Aid, based in London reports that the world’s biggest cities are already depleting their water resources. Urban centers including New Delhi, Santiago and Mexico City have to pump water from distant sites. Water tables are significantly being reduced in most of the major cities around the globe.

Large cities are also the biggest producers of garbage and waste material, most of which is dumped into rivers and lakes. This further pollutes the already limited water resources and reduces the quality of available water.

Agriculture

Agricultural sector is one of the primary consumer of fresh water. According to Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (2009), irrigated agriculture accounts for almost 70 percent of total water withdrawn for human use globally. This water is withdrawn from rivers, lakes, reservoirs, ponds and aquifers. Moreover, irrigation often leads to depletion of underground aquifers, and salination (The build up of salt in the soil, a process) as well.

Agricultural practices require excessive groundwater withdrawals. One way this has been made possible is by the introduction of tube-wells. This state subsidized technology gives access to water in large quantities in even water stressed countries like Pakistan and India. However, many experts including New Scientist in 2004 have declared this technology as a precursor to environmental catastrophe in the Asian countries. Excessive use of water and digging of deeper wells are leading to water shortages. Moreover, it also leads to salinization of water. When the saline water is used by farmers for agricultural practices, it destroys their lands crop productivity as well. In addition, the withdrawal of water exceeding the natural recharge rates of aquifers is leading to the lowering of water Tables.

Industrial Practices

Massive amounts of fresh water are required by industrial sector of any country. According to studies 25% of the world’s water is utilized for industrial purposes. The rate is higher for developed countries where it is as high as 50-80%. In developed countries the percentage of fresh water utilized in industry is around 10-30%. As more and more countries are industrializing, the consequent need for fresh water in industry is increasing as well. Fresh water is used in various industrial processes including boiling, cleaning, air conditioning, cooling, processing, transportation, and energy production. Hence, fresh water is crucial for industrial development of any country or region.

Freshwater Ecosystem Alterations-The Construction of Large Dams

Humans have tried to control their water resources in more than one ways over the history. One such way has been through modification of common waterways. This has been achieved by construction of dams, irrigation infrastructure, canal systems and inter-basin connections etc. These practices have considerably increased human control over a valuable resource and led to various positive developments.

20th century has seen the building of massive water infrastructure projects and water diversions. Dams have been constructed on rivers for irrigation, for hydro-electric power, and for flood control. A significant number of world’s largest Dams facilitate irrigation needs of their regions and are found in China, India, Pakistan, and the United States. However, dams prevent streams and rivers from replenishing groundwater. Major rivers of the world including Ganges, Nile, Yellow, Indus, and Colorado Rivers often run dry before they even arrive at the ocean. As a result unreplenished aquifers have been strained to the limit.

Despite the extensive developments, the negative impact of these modifications on availability of water sources around the world can not be overlooked. These practices have negative bearings on the hydrology of fresh water systems. Wetlands and floodplains often get disconnected from their rivers. Water velocity of rivers also suffers as a result of such interventions. Consequently the ecosystems of the rivers get disturbed due to changes in seasonal flows of sediment transport of rivers. This not only affects the biodiversity of the region but also influences the available opportunities of livelihood of the region. Construction of dams is often followed by displacement of communities and their cultural practices.

Conservation Factors

Many experts argue that lack of conservation of water and its inefficient use in different sectors is exacerbating its availability in present times. The degree of wastage of water that occurs is very high. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) claims that inefficient irrigation methods in agricultural sector are leading to wastage of more than 10 to 20 % of water. Large quantities of fresh water in industrial sector are also wasted due to lack of recycling and proper disposal. In developed countries 10% of water wastage is due to leaks in municipal water networks; in developing countries the percentage can be as high as 60%.

One of the major reasons behind lack of conservation of water is lack of awareness among people. Inefficient laws and policies also result in generation of water conservation related problem.

Water Crisis in Pakistan

Pakistan as a nation is going through tough times. In these times of social unrest, political upheaval and civil war, water crisis in the country has emerged as yet another problem of great magnitude. Shortage of water in the country is bound to have serious implications for social, economic and political stability of the country. Recent studies show Pakistan as one of the most “water-limited” nations. A recent report of World Bank has declared Pakistan as a “water scarce” country on its way to becoming a “water stressed” country. The report claims that if necessary action is not taken, chances are that Pakistan will end up as a “water famine “country in a short span of only ten years.

The major source of fresh water in Pakistan is Indus River. The Indus, originating in the Himalayas and flowing southwest to the Arabian Sea, feeds Pakistan’s 80% of irrigated agricultural land. Indus is dependant on glaciers of Central Asia’s mountains for more than 70% of its water. However, recent estimates show that the glacial area has been reduced upto 35% while many small glaciers have completely dissappeared. The Indus now barely reaches the ocean during much of the year.

The current per capita availability of water in Pakistan is 1,200 cubic meters, one of the lowest in the world. Such estimates from current studies are not in favor of Pakistan at all. However, water situation for Pakistan was not always as bad as that of today. For instance, per capita water supply stood at a robust 5,000 cubic meters in 1951.

However, Pakistan has been facing serious drought conditions for past three years in a row. In addition, the seasonal and hydrological variations, escapages to sea and canal water diversions create a huge imbalance in water availability.

This can have serious implications for Pakistan’s economy and agriculture. For instance, Pakistan’s wheat production is expected to decrease by 40 percent in 2009 as a result of water scarcity.

Factors behind Water Crisis in Pakistan

The ongoing water shortage in Pakistan has shaken the very basis of our economy. In addition, it has also exacerbated the mistrust in the people regarding government’s capacities for dealing efficiently with the issue. The current water situation in Pakistan is a result of number of inter-related factors. Most agree that the situation is mainly caused by natural weather patterns and ecological changes that have become unfavorable to us. However, many at the same time argue that the situation of water in Pakistan is fueled by non-natural elements as well. Individual citizens, private firms, civil societies and state-run organizations have failed to address the prevailing issue rationally and efficiently.

There are a number of reasons behind the water crisis in Pakistan. One of the main reasons is Pakistan’s ever increasing population. According to sources, Pakistan’s existing population is around more than 160 million and is expected to rise to 208 million by 2025. Pakistan’s population has not only crossed the 140 million mark but is increasing persistently at a disturbing rate of 3%. Increasing population not only influences the demography of a country but also adds pressure on the available resources of the region. This is evident from the fact that water available for every Pakistani has been reduced from 5000cu/m to 1000cu/m since our independence in 1947.

Climate change and pollution are another major reason behind the water crisis in our country. Rivers, lakes and streams are being dumped with untreated industrial and domestic waste matter. Pesticides from farms are finding their way into streams and groundwater. This in turn is decreasing the quality of water and making it unfit for human use. Also changing weather patterns, dry spells and variation in monsoon season are causing water shortages in the country.

Majority of water sources like rivers and natural aquifers are being over- exploited. This situation is further aggravated due to irrational use of available water. Lack of awareness regarding the need to conserve water also adds in to the current problem of water. In addition, the absence of integrated water management further exacerbates the condition of water shortage in Pakistan.

Various wasteful farming techniques and irrigational practices are leading to water shortages as well. For instance, 97% of Indus’s average annual inflow is used in agriculture in Pakistan. Most of this is diverted into our one of the largest but very inefficient irrigation system. 50% of this is lost before it reaches the crops during changeling and field application. Around 20% goes into sea unused which should be unacceptable in a country that is facing severe water scarcity. Moreover, at the same time, little attention has been paid to rain harvesting and the storage of seasonal flood waters.

Crisis of Governance:

Many term Pakistan’s current water crisis as a direct result of crisis of governance. Lack of efficient and adequate institutions for water management and conservation is a major reason behind the diminishing water resources of the country. The presence of fragmented institutional structures and excessive diversions of public resources for private gains have immensely created hindrances in the effective utilization of water resources as well.

Hence, lack of government initiative and presence of effective policies stands out in the factors leading to water shortage in the country. According to sources, the government is only spending about 0.25 percent of GDP on the management of water. There is no integrated approach to avoid sub-optimal uses of water and extensive system losses. Safe disposal of wastewater is virtually nonexistent. The quantity of water has been deteriorating and the institutional capacities for dealing with the matter are highly questionable. Moreover, there is no inter-ministerial and inter-provincial body to oversee water sector planning, development and management. The water, agriculture and rural development projects and related research are poorly inter-linked. Most of the water schemes are small isolated schemes regarding water issues. Again efforts are not made to follow an integrated approach. Integration is required not only within institutions dealing with water but among all sectors including water, forestry, livestock, public health, environment and agriculture. Corruption also poses major setbacks in proper management of water and development of suitable policies.

In addition, different departments of government dealing with water resources, irrigation and crop management lack well-qualified, trained and experienced staff. There is little attention paid to conduction of technical surveys, plans and designing of new projects. These departments, more than often rely on outdated data and equipment. Many centers lack technical and trained man power and lack of equipment and efficient laboratories that further aggravates the situation. For instance, due to some of these mentioned reasons the Hydro-geology Directorate of Wapda was closed in Baluchistan that was working in ground water investigation and development.

Moreover, the government does initiate various projects for water management and conservation. Some are in collaboration with private sector while other with local communities. However, the lack of project monitoring and evaluation is a serious impediment to efficient water management in the country. The provinces lack effective and organized mechanisms and infrastructure for monitoring of ongoing and completed projects. These mechanisms are urgently required since they help in identifying the problem areas and assessing success rates of projects.

Consequences of Water Crisis Global Food insecurity

According to Food and Agricultural Organization of United Bations about 2 billion people lack food security around the world. Food security according to FAO’s definition refers to “ state of afairs where all people at all times have access to safe and nutritious food to maintain a healthy and active life”.

The average amount of grain land per person dropped by almost half from 0.23 to 0.12 hectares between 1950 and 1996. If the current trends of population growth continue then it is expected to reduce even further to 0.08 hectares by year 2030. By 2050 this figure could drop to an alarming 0.1 hectare per capita.

One of the major reasons for declining food security is massive population growth. This hence, adds to the current water availability around the world by putting stress on the available water resources. In many low-income food deficit countries, the capacities for food production have deteriorated immensely as a result of soil erosion, chronic water shortages.

Hence, scarcity of water is a significant indicator for food insecurity in the world. For instance, water for agriculture accounts for 70 percent of all water that is consumed as a result of human activities every year. Farmers often find it increasingly difficult to maintain food supplies when faced by water shortages. The magnitude of the problem is evident from the fact that only in India, the number of water-short villages has increases from 17,000 to 70,000 in a period of two decades. This has immensely suppressed the crop production of the region, consequently reducing the amount of food that is available to people there.

About 17 percent of the world’s land depends on irrigation for their crop production. All of this land, spread out around the globe is responsible for supplying food to one third of world’s entire population. Ineffective and mismanaged irrigation systems have potential to severely affect crop production. For instance, according to estimates of FAO in 1995 around one half of all irrigated land suffered from reduced yields as a result of ineffective or excessive irrigation practices. The two major problems that have come to surface have been water logging and salinization. According to further estimates of FAO, 25-330 million hectares of world’s 25 million hectares of irrigated land has been severely damages due to salt build up in the soil. Further, another 80 million produces insufficient crops due to both, salinization and water logging. The fact that world’s limited irrigated land in consistently shrinking at a time when it needs to expand, poses serious threats to present and future production and availability of food for human consumption

Damage to biodiversity

Biodiversity refers to “the variety and variability of life on Earth. This includes all of the plants and animals that live and grow on the Earth, their habitats and all of the natural processes of which they are a part”. Our earth supports nearly unlimited biodiversity; a large part of this bio-diversity is supported by fresh water i.e. lakes and rivers etc. Moreover, these fresh water ecosystems are central to human cultures and settlements around the world.

However, as a result of increasing water shortages, threats to species in freshwater ecosystems have become widespread. Habitat degradation, physical alteration from dams and canals, water withdrawals, overharvesting of fish and shellfish, pollution, and the introduction of nonnative species have all increased in scale and impact in the last century. Construction of Dams extremely disturb the hydrological cycle, suppressing natural flood cycles, disconnecting rivers from their wetlands and floodplains, disrupting fish migrations, and altering the deposition of sediments downstream.

Pollution is another significant indicator of endangered biodiversity. For instance, due to water pollution in Indus river, the species diversity of fish has been reduced. Breeding of “palla” (Hilsa ilisha), a famous staple diet for people in Sindh, is reported to be on the decline. Mangroves productivity has also been adversely effected due to deteriorating water quality of Indus river, e.g. “Avicennia marina” in the lower Indus delta. The Indus river “Blind Dolphin” (Platanista minor), mainly concentrated on a length of 180 km, alongthe river, between Guddu and Sukkur barrages, is facing extinction (Dawn, March 1, 1997). No estimate has yet been made, to assess the economic impacts and ecological consequences, of the loss of fish-life in Indus River, due to water pollution.

Health issues

Environmental conditions of any region act as storing indicator of status of their health and living patterns. Hence, changes in environment including environmental degradation, climate change, water shortages can have long term effect on health.

Environmental conditions contribute significantly to communicable diseases. These diseases account for about 25 percent of deaths every year around the world. The illnesses most closely related to environment are infectious and parasitic diseases and respiratory infections. Water is a major medium through which these spread through out communities and become epidemic. For instance, 12 million people are killed by diseases resulting from poor sanitation and unclean water alone.

Hence, the lack of access to sufficient quantities of clean potable water and/or basic sanitation for a third of humanity is one of the most pressing matters of this age. Not only is there a lack of water in rural areas of developing nations, but also in the increasingly crowded urban centres. This shortage of water, which is such an essential part of modern life whether in domestic, commercial or agricultural endeavours, is having an untold effect on the health and development of communities across the developing world.

Changes in land use can also create health problems for a community. A lot of water borne diseases spread as a result of construction of Dams and irrigation systems. For instance, schistosomiasis became widespread in Sudan and Egypt after construction of Aswan Dam. The clearing of tropical forests which result in collection of rain water become breeding grounds for mosquitoes. Hence, Malaria has been found to cause 10 percent of deaths in Sub-Saharan Africa every year.

In Pakistan, the quality of environment is dangerously poor for majority of its citizens. During year 2006-07 only 36 percent of the households were using tap water supply. There are large gaps between rural and urban access to safe water. For instance, during the same year 62 percent urban households enjoyed access to tap water. On the other hand rural population has only 22 percent of households with access to same facility. In addition, the budget allocation for water supply and sanitation remains negligible, mounting to less than 0.2 percent of GDP.

Nearly 75 percent of population, which accounts to around 125 million Pakistani, have no access to safe drinking water. This has serious ramifications for the health of population. For instance, Rs. 120 billion (1.8 percent of GDP) is spent on treating Water-borne diseases such as cholera, diarrhoea and typhoid.

Health and water quality are well linked as demonstrated by the results of Unicef report. The report affirms that up to 20 to 40 percent of beds in hospitals are occupied by patients suffering from water borne diseases alone. These diseases including diarrhoea, cholera, hepatitis etc are responsible for one third of deaths.

In addition, poor water and sanitation is a major health concern in the country. Water borne diseases lead to economic losses as well in form of loss of million of work hours and associated costs of health care.

Water Crisis, Peace and Security:

Water has long been recognized as vital for human survival and sustenance. As human population is persistently increasing, so is the demand for water. This essential natural resource however, dispersed unevenly around the globe is available to humans only in finite amounts. Hence, as the looming prospects of water shortages become more and more real to the world, water today has emerged as one of the most significant motivators in numerous international and regional conflicts around the world.

Water resources today have become crucial to any country’s economic growth and political supremacy in both, national and international arena. Therefore, all countries strive, in all their possible capacities to maintain control over water resources of their regions. However, nature often tends to play cruel tricks with man. The water resources of the world by and large transgress man-made political boundaries and follow their natural course. For this reason they are shared by many countries simultaneously.

Water conflicts initially arise when two or more nations compete over certain water resources. These water resources are available in form of rivers, dams, lakes or deep water etc. The degree of scarcity of water, the extent the water supply is shared among countries, the relative power of each of the states, and the accessibility of alternate fresh water supplies are some of the reasons that lead to water resource rivalries.

Socio-political factors are critical in such conflicts as well. These rivalries are often fueled by ideological differences or economic competition. Construction of Dams and reservoirs ignite conflicts as well since they have potential to alter the ecological attributes of a region. Vast populations often get displaced and accessibility of many local resources gets affected by such development projects.

However, the debate continues whether water resource conflicts have potential to lead to violent conflicts? Many, like Ismail Serageldin, vice-president of the World Bank who stated in a 1995 New York Times article that “The wars of the next century will be about water”, vehemently argue that water wars in the present times are inevitable.

Yet multiple experts also maintain that violence will most likely not be a factor in current or future water disputes. This is because such experts do not view water wars as strategically or even economically viable. Water disputes among countries are still preferably solved through negotiations and treaties, and hardly through wars. The Fact that “Indus Water Treaty” signed between Pakistan and India in 1960 survived two major wars between the countries is a proof enough.

Whether water disputes culminate into violent wars or mere regional tensions, either way they hold grave socio-political, economical and developmental implications for any country. Hence, it is imperative that proper and effective mechanisms are developed to tackle all kinds of water issues.

International water conflicts:

Concerns for future availability of water are mounting all around the world as the water resources dry out. Such concerns of nations have potential to intensify, both at local and global level. Moreover, world’s over 260 river basins are shared among two or more nations. Transboundary tensions often erupt as a result of changes within the river basins. These tensions often escalate into hostile conflicts when there is absence of strong institutions and agreements among the sharing nations. Also regional projects that are launched without regional collaboration or consent from the sharing part culminate into conflicts. Hence, shared water resources are often central to regional and political instabilities around the world.

Some of the prominent international conflicts over water resources include conflict over Euphrates River. Syria and Iraq are opposed to the construction of dam on the river by Turkey as it will give the country increased control over their shared water resource. In addition, many believe that one of the reasons turkey opposes the independences of Kurds is because its water supply directly depends on the glaciers found on mountains under Kurd control.

Israeli manipulation of water resources has brought strong objections from Syria, Jordan and Palestine. River Nile is also at the centre of International conflict over water resources. Egypt and Ethiopia battle over Niles water resources. Egypt resents Ethiopia’s plans of construction of dam over the river. India also is at heart of conflict with trans-border tensions with countries including both, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Both these countries are downstream to India and have their water resources drying out as a result of India’s construction of dams over River Indus.

Water crisis and conflict in Pakistan India- Pakistan Water Dispute

The conflict in Pakistan arises over Indus river water. The Indus River originates far north in the mountains of Tibet, and flows north-west through Ladakh-Baltistan into Gilgit, where it gradually turns south into Indian-administered Kashmir. It has five main tributaries: Sutlej, Ravi, Beas, Jhelum and Chenab.

Pakistan’s entire agriculture depends on water from this river. However, Pakistan shares this vital source of water with India as well. In addition to water, both the countries also share a hostile past which complicates the matter further. Hence, water dispute between India and Pakistan has many dimensions; social, economical, political and strategic.

Issues regarding distribution of water came to the forefront after partition of the Indian subcontinent in 1947. According to an agreement signed by both countries, known as 1960 Indus Water Treaty, the water of the Indus is shared. Pakistan enjoys control over water of Indus, Chenab and Jhelum, while India has access to eastern rivers Sutlej, Ravi and Beas. The treaty also allows Pakistan provisions to use water from eastern rivers for irrigation purposes.

India enjoys a privileged position in this dispute because of its upstream position. The formal inauguration of controversial Baglihar dam in October 2008 has sparked intense opposition from Pakistan. The country views it as a clear violation of the Treaty on the Chenab River. Moreover, India’s construction of two dams on Chenab and that of Kishen Ganga Hydropower Project on river Jhelum are also fueling the water dispute between the two countries.

Pakistan is of the view that these dams can have adverse affects on the country’s agriculture. Such Indian projects are likely to further aggravate Pakistan’s water shortages even further. The Indian control over these rivers has potential to destroy Pakistan’s economy. It further poses grave threats to country’s security as well. The Indian dams constructed on these rivers can be used to stop water to our canals and distributaries. Damage to dams or opening the flow of water downstream can lead to destructive floods in the country.

Despite Pakistan’s consistent complaints India four other dams have been announced by India that will follow the pattern of Baglihar on the Chenab River. According to Intelligence reports number of proposed Indians dams is actually twelve instead of four. These dams will irrevocably damage Pakistan’s agricultural sector. However, both countries inability to reach consensus on the issue of water is escalating the crisis further. Hence, in absence of mutual collaborations and lack of effective international mediation, the tensions between the two countries are escalating inexorably with serious implications for regions security.

Baglihar Dam

The Baglihar hydroelectric dam has been constructed on the river Chenab, which flows from Indian-controlled Kashmir into Pakistan. The dam has been a constant source of dispute between India and Pakistan for a very long time.

Since Pakistan depends largely on agriculture for sustaining its economy and livelihood of half of its population, the dam poses grave threats to its economic development.

India blocked 9000 cusec of Chenab water to fill the Baglihar Dam which was inaugurated by the Indian Premier on Oct 10. Also India’s irregular and unannounced closing and opening of water on river Chenab is creating further problems for Pakistan. many villages in Pakistan experience excessive damage from flood waters released by India. Other times of the year the reduced water flows affects these areas crops and food production. Many areas that are directly affected include dozens of villages alongside Head Sulemanki and many more in Kasur, Bahawalnagar, and Vehari.

Pakistani officials stress that the dam is leading to agricultural crisis in the country. Millions of cubic feet of water is withheld upstream on the Chenab in Indian-administered Kashmir and stopped from entering Pakistani premises which lead to considerable damage to Pakistani crops. This water is stored it in the massive Baglihar dam in order to produce hydro-electricity.

The level of water in river Chenab in Pakistan has been reduced to very low levels and the situation is alarming. Pakistan wants to resume talks with India over the matter. Pakistani officials think it is breach on international Indus treaty of 1960. However, the recent events of terrorist attacks in Mumbai and many in Pakistan have complicated the matter and created further hurdles in peaceful and long term resolution of the crucial water dispute.

In the light of implications of such projects for Pakistan it is important to analyze Indian development on Chenab. India has set up a company called the Chenab Valley Power Projects to construct power plants on the Chenab River in Occupied Kashmir. Three of these are Kiru (600 MW), Pakal Dul (1,000 MW) and Karwa (520 MW).These will be constructed in the Doda district. The matter needs urgent resolution.

Kishganga Dam

River Jhelum is an important source of water in Pakistan. It is one of the major rivers of “five” rivers of the country that support and sustain Pakistan’s economic development. However, India’s recent developments on parts of the river in Indian Kashmir are raising concerns among Pakistani authorities. In addition, India’s lack of consultation with Pakistan is aggravating the situation further.

The dispute is over India’s construction of Kishganga Dam which is a 330-megawatt Kishanganga hydro-power project across the river Jhelum. It stands on the very region where the river diverts from one tributary to another.

Pakistan not only sees it as violation of Indus water Treaty of 1960 but is also concerned about immediate as well as long term implications for growth and security of the region. The dam is located about 1 60-km upstream Muzzaffarabad and involves diversion of river Neelum (Kishanganga) to another tributary known as Bunar Bunar Madumati Nullah of Jhelum river through a 22-km tunnel. It will be stored and used for power production near Bunkot in Indian Kashmir. This water will rejoin River Jhelum via Wullar Lake.

However, this project implies a diversion of 100 km in Neelum river which otherwise meets Jhelum near Muzaffarabad at Domail. This has grave consequences for Neelum valley which could go dry as a result of this diversion. It will also have serious impact on Pakistan’s capacity to generate power as a result of reduced access to water.

As a consequence of this 100-km diversion of the Neelum river, Pakistan’s Neelum Valley is likely to dry up and become a desert. The most important issue here is the diversion of  the Neelum river waters  to the Wuller lake.

Pakistan has made it known that such a diversion contravenes the Indus Water Treaty which would compromise Pakistan’s rights over the river and reduce the flow of water into Pakistan significantly. Further, any construction on the Neelum river upstream will affect power generation

Experts in Pakistan are of the view that if and when this project is completed, it will reduce the flow (pressure) of the Neelum river and thus decrease the power generation capability of Pakistan’s proposed 969-mw Neelum-Jhelum hydropower project in Azad Kashmir by more than 20 per cent or about 100-mw.

Pakistan’s Provincial water conflicts

Inter-provincial disputes, particularly between Punjab and Sindh, arise over the distribution of water among the four provinces. As a result of pre-partition water disputes between Sindh and Punjab, the British intervened in 1945. The dispute was settled and Sindh attained the rights to receive water from the Indus. However, after 1970 the federal government obtained the right to allocate water to the provinces on ad hoc basis.

Majority of the inter-provincial water disputes stem from a pro-Punjab bias in the distribution of water. However, many provinces also voice their resentment against the impact of water infrastructure on their land and economy. Although, Indus Water Apportionment Accord was signed in 1991 which allows all provinces access to Indus water. Yet other provinces still accuse Punjab for taking advantage of its upstream position.

Kalabagh Dam

Provinces in Pakistan have been arguing over the construction of Kalabagh Dam for many years. While Punjab supports the construction of dam, NWFP and Sindh are two provinces that are vehemently opposed to its construction. The reasons cited for their opposition are their fears that the dam’s construction will not only flood the entire city of Nowshera but will cause water logging in many agricultural land of the region. The provinces also resent the fact that the implementation of project will lead to mass displacement of people in their provinces.

The dam will be located on the Indus River, about 100 miles South West of Islamabad. The project was conceived by the government in year 1953. It is expected to be a 260-foot high structure that will produce a 6.1 million acre feet reservoir of usable water storage. It has capacity to be the Asia’s largest hydroelectric dam. However, the dam will cover 2900 acres of land and will consequently displace around 42,000 people of NWFP. Rest of the dam will be constructed in much bigger area of Punjab with far greater number of people will be displaced.

Sindh also opposes the project because of reasons of mistrust on Punjab government. It has accused the province for siphoning of water resources. In addition Sindh claims that the projects will have serious ramifications for the agriculture and environment of the provinces. The sea has already ingresses as a result of construction of dams. As a result 1.2 million acres of agricultural land has so far been consumed by the sea. This has consequently threatened the livelihood of 400,000 fishermen and farmers living on 100 km Sindh coastline.

Greater Thal Canal

Pakistan government’s another project regarding water resources that has sparked much opposition from Sindh and NWFP is the Thal Canal project. It is expected to be, along with its branches about 1,221 miles long. The project is estimated to cost US $160 million. The project is proposed to be completed in seven years time and will be used to provide irrigation facilities to 1.9 million acres in Punjab. Sindh and NWFP, both are opposed to the project because they believe the project will allow unfair distribution of water resources among the provinces and Punjab would be the only one to benefit from it.

Suggestions and conclusion

The looming prospects of a world encumbered with environmental catastrophes, water shortages and dwindling resources, are becoming reality much sooner than we expected. Yet, the world continues unabated, on its path of relentless consumption and production. However, it is no longer possible to view the emerging world crisis of water in isolation and link it to a certain geographical region. The need of the hour is a collective political will directed towards urgent, sustainable and equitable solution for the current crisis.

Access to clean water and sustainable energy are two of the cornerstones of human development. Unfortunately, despite all the technological advances of the past decades, today half the population of the world lives without one or both of these essential services, trapping them in poverty.

Some experts believe that the problem lies in our approach towards the issue at hand. The new approach will require following essential elements for action:

  1. Strategies, which must move from segmented to comprehensive.
  2. Interventions, which must move from curative to preventive.
  3. Investments, which must move from incremental to strategic.

However, there is an imperative need of formulating an integrated policy of urban planning, population control and modern use of water (Water management system). The policy must comprehend all aspects of the issue, and should key in the technical input to design a framework for tackling the problem.

All government institutes, Political parties, Civil society organizations, policy making bodies and monitoring frameworks must adopt a unified stance and shared vision for a comprehensive plan of action to avert the threat of climate change.

The government must take the issue as a priority to tackle. It must set benchmarks & targets to achieve in this respect. And more effort must be put in to implement the plan and motor its execution. However, the most important thing is that the national policy alone cannot tackle the challenge of environment, there needs to be a coordinated effort at regional and international level is also required.

Water has, in recent times, come to be recognized as one of the most precious resources for sustained development of nations. Therefore, water resources need to be managed rationally and properly at global level. The current crisis of water has reached to intolerable proportions and requires urgent global effort.

Experts suggest that water should no longer be considered as a natural resource abundantly available in modern world. It should be viewed as an economic asset, a strategic resource and a security issue and therefore, dealt with accordingly. Long term planning is required for addressing eco-systems, social changes and process by both, policy makers and civil society. Moreover, collective commitment is required at societal level for safeguarding our common future. Also important is need for implementation of a stake-holder oriented integrated frame-work for decision making regarding water management through participatory policy making.

Suggestions for management of Water crisis in Pakistan:

Pakistan has long been declared an arid country. Water resources are unevenly distributed across the country’s landscape which exacerbates the dynamics of water crisis. This distribution of water resources demands special management of water so that its equitable distribution can be ensured among all the sectors and provinces. However, with a steadily increasing population, that puts further pressure on the government for increased standards of living, is posing serious threats to the already dwindling water resources of the country. Hence, Pakistan faces an enormous challenge in allocation, utility, and protection of the limited resources.

Experts view that the current water crisis in the country is not only an issue of scarcity but of mismanagement as well. Hence, the crisis can still be controlled by addressing the issue through proper channels. An approach that makes use of supply management and demand management is one way to handle the crisis, according to experts. Supply management overlooks activities regarding location, development, and exploitation of new sources of water. Demand management on the other hand, addresses the needs of water conservation through deployment of certain mechanisms and incentives.

Hence, there’s no confusion in the fact that the crisis cannot be dealt through isolated solutions. Water dynamics are indeed complex and require solutions with reference to all sectors including political, social, institutional and technical.

Macro-Proposals

Development in Institutional set up; Improving Governance

The deepening crisis of water in the country demands a complete reorganization of the institutional water sector at all levels. This reorganization needs to be corresponding to a parallel enhancement in the methods and structure of governance in the country. A change in attitude is most crucial.

If we want to develop self sustaining and progressive institutions we need to ensure that they are not person-centered. An institution is only successful if it can grow and develop based on a coherent framework and a set of methods instead of just few people. Therefore mechanisms need to be created that can instill self-preserving values of accountability and responsibility into our institutional frameworks.

However, a major impediment is the prevalent attitude of badshahslamiat that prevails within every institution of our country. We await the arrival of a messiah who can come and change the situation for us, that too in our favor without us doing much ourselves. This is evident in most of our institutions which lack methods of monitoring and evaluation. There is no personal accountability. Hence, there is need for proper mechanism of monitoring, evaluation and accountability at all levels of organization.

Another important need is of trained personnel in water departments. Regular Training of technical staff should be ensured by the government. There should be a combination of top-down and bottom-top approach in project identification, formulation and execution to make them more effective. Further suggestions include improving the cost recovery system of water development projects and provision of regular monitoring and technical assistance to the communities.

The role of governance can not be ignored here either. The government also needs to ensure as well as improve the monitoring and evaluation system for ongoing and completed projects regarding water. There is also need for presence of an efficient mechanism that can ensure coordination between local government and development relating to rural, public health engineering, agriculture, forest, irrigation and power departments.

The water crisis requires, as many experts suggest that the sanctity of Water Accord 1991 is restored immediately. This is imperative for the fair distribution of water. In addition its political importance lies in the fact that the lost trust among the provinces over the issue of water distribution needs to be restored. Many suggest that all the fresh water resources should be regarded as single entity. Therefore distribution should be based on need-based arrangement. This suggestion is often brought forward by Sindh which demands its right over water of Mangla Dam for early Kharif.

Many experts on the topic view that involvement of private sector as well as the civil society organizations in process of water management in the crucial need of the hour. These processes include need identification, design, planning, and implementation of water projects.

Privatization of water

Another matter that may be discussed under the issue of governance is of privatization of water in Pakistan. Privatization of water changes the dynamics of water in a region with several implications for the lives of people. However, the questions that need to be explored are related to the extent of the impact on lifestyles of people and the role of government. It is important to study whether privatization affects the quality, condition, and availability of clean drinking water to people of Pakistan. In a corrupt and nepotistic society like ours, this issue has several dimensions to it and needs further exploration.

Preservation of Indus Water and Conservation of water bodies

Pakistan has limited water resources that are over-exploited and exhaustible. Hence, there is urgent need for conservation of country’s water resources.

Indus River is the most crucial source of almost all our water bodies. Therefore, preservation of Indus River should be high on government agenda. Further, Indus River is critical not only for environmental reasons but because it also has serious security ramifications for the region since we share it with India. The glaciers are melting fast and urgent measures need to be taken. However, the fact that both the countries have, despite international treaties, failed to find common grounds on matter of water complicates the situation.

Success of Preservation of Indus therefore, will largely depend on strength of our institutions followed by good governance. We need institutions that can help develop both, shot term and long term mechanisms for its preservation.

Another important need is conservation of our water bodies (a term used for referring to rivers, streams, ponds, bays, gulfs, and seas). One way to do this is to prevent and reduce the pollution of water bodies. This requires strict legislation that can reduce incidence of pollution of water bodies as a result of industrial and agricultural activities. Further, there is need for regular monitoring of all the water bodies including checks on their water quality and quantity. However, this requires that standards are specified for desirable water quality and quantity according to the regions.

Moreover, natural fresh water lakes need to be conserved. Pakistan has many such lakes that need conservation that can help develop local water resources. Many lakes in Sindh are suffering the consequences of pollution and are adversely affected. These include Manchar, Hameal, kinjhar, and Haleji to name a few.

Hence, fresh water bodies should not be used as dumping sites for industrial, agricultural and domestic wastes. Ground water contaminations need to be controlled as well. Public education and information programs directed towards mass education of population regarding water conservation can prove to be very beneficial in altering their practices and attitudes.

Reforms in Agriculture

It is a well documented fact that agricultural sector is one of the most water intensive. In addition, Pakistan is a country that relies heavily on agriculture for its economic growth and food availability. About 22 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in Pakistan comes from this sector. However, growth of agriculture and Pakistan’s economy lies in great perils due to incessant degradation of our environment. Therefore, urgent reforms and change in agricultural practices are required straight away at both, local and national level.

Most important form of farming in Pakistan relies on irrigation. According to reports, about 18.78 million hectares of total 22.94 million hectares cropped area in Pakistan depends on irrigated water. Canals and underground water pumped via tube wells are main sources of irrigation water. The continued availability of irrigated water is ensured through country’s “Indus Basin Irrigation System”. Comprised of three larger water reservoirs, 19 barrages, 12 inter-river link canals, 43 irrigation canals and over 107,000 water courses, it is the world’s largest network of integrated irrigation. The system drains an average of 106 MAF of surface water annually for irrigation purposes. Irrigation water is crucial for agriculture sector of the country and therefore, regular supply of irrigated water has to be ensured for sustained yields.

Unfortunately, as a result of several reasons including negligence, mismanagement and lack of political will a large quantity of water is lost from the irrigation system. The irrigation efficiency of canal system loses water through evaporation, percolation and seepage. A country that is at the brink of being declared as water starved, it is alarming that 35 percent of water is lost through canals only. Moreover, 24 percent of water is lost as a result of larger and smaller distributaries while 25 percent during field applications.

Hence, water management and conservation needs to be on the top of the policy makers’ agenda. This can be achieved through crop management where practices in farms can be encouraged that help save water. Such practices include suitable cultivar, timely sowing, optimum plant population, recommended sowing methods, standard irrigation methods, application of fertilizers in balanced amounts, and plant protection measures to name a few. Also crop management should include exploration of new crops and varieties of already existing crops that require relatively less water for growth and productivity.

Proper Soil management can also help in alleviating the pressures of water crisis. For instance, fine seedbed preparation, leveling of fields, and deep ploughing are some ways of achieving it. Soil conservation should be practiced and encouraged in farmers for long term sustainability.

Many irrigational practices can also help reduce water usage. For instance, many suggest drip irrigation; a method which helps save up to 70 percent water and increases yield by 90 percent. The method involves delivery of water to the roots of plants directly at low discharges. This is made possible through perforated pipes that are installed below the surface of soil. Micro-sprinklers are also great ways of saving water that allow low discharge of water directly to crops. These methods of irrigation are referred to as Micro-irrigation and are highly recommended methods for saving irrigation water.

Rain-fed irrigation is another alternative that experts suggest for controlling the wastage or excessive use of water resources in agriculture. It allows maximum use of rainfall in an area. Saline agriculture can also be practiced in areas that are affected by salinity. Option of saline irrigation can be given serious thought. A lot of varieties of crops have certain degree of salt tolerance. Hence, moderately saline drainage effluent and domestic sewage can be utilized as well for farming practices in certain areas.

Lining of canals and water courses is crucial for saving water in irrigation system of our country. Experts suggest that a crash program is required for lining of water courses and canals to save huge losses of water. Hence increase in efficiency of irrigation system of the country can have several benefits. Experts are of view that increases of only up to 5 percent of irrigation efficiency can save Pakistan about 4.7 million-acre feet MAF annually. However, several steps are required to enhance the efficiency of irrigation system. Experts suggest that policies need to be developed and incentives be given to encourage farmers to adopt high efficiency irrigation systems in their fields. This can also be achieved by encouraging the establishment of local industries in manufacturing of essential components of high efficiency irrigation systems.

Micro-proposals Attitude Change:

The most urgent need of the hour is that we, as a nation change the way we view water. Water conservation requires behavioral change preceded by new attitudes toward water usage.

Experts have increasingly come to the shared view that water needs to be regarded as a “human right”. This is because recognition of the social dimension of water helps to identify it as a universal human right. It further helps in acknowledging the environmental dimension of human rights and therefore, expands its scope. It can also act as prerequisite to fulfillment of many other human rights that our essential for human survival and its integrity. Many experts are of the view that this approach will also make it increasingly difficult for groups and individuals to violate international environmental laws relating to protection and management of water. Hence, it will help instill a sense of accountability in both, the governments and individuals regarding utilization of water resources. As a result, Governments will also have more pressure for guaranteeing equitable distribution of water of sufficient quantity and quality among all populations. Through formal recognition of this right, more equitable pricing of the water resources can also be ensured.

However, water has to be defined and understood in a much broader fashion. Many experts suggest that water should be formally recognized as an environmental resource as well. This is crucial in the right-based approach towards water. It is imperative that societies learn to acknowledge the water needs of the environment with respect to river basins, aquifers, lakes, oceans and the eco-systems dependent on water. Hence, it is important that governments and communities ensure proper management of river basins and groundwater completely. Moreover, specific environment provisions need to be formulated.

However, the right based approach needs to lead to behavioral change among both, the policy makers and population at large. The most urgent need lies in changing the consumption patterns of the nation as a whole. This requires designing of an education system that can change the mindsets of publics regarding water and other natural resources. The curriculum at schools should focus specifically on water issues and on the ways that this situation can be prevented.

Other alternatives of water management

Pakistan has access to large resources of sea water. Desalination has been adopted by around more than 200 countries around the world where desalinized water from sea is used for both, drinking and agricultural purposes. Pakistan has a 1050 km long coastal region in Sindh and Baluchistan which is not being utilized efficiently. Desalinization, although, is an expensive process yet can still help in alleviating some stress from the fresh water resources of the country.

Re-Use of wastewater

Reuse of treated municipal wastewater for irrigation is an alternative that many experts are suggesting. Much of the untreated wastewater of urban cities and industries is discharged into Indus River. This not only pollutes our one source of fresh water but also wastes a potential source of water. Experts suggest that if the wastewater is treated to a reasonable degree, proper water application and personal hygiene, it can be used for irrigation purposes. However, the use of wastewater is a sensitive matter since it has potential for various health hazards as well. It therefore, requires a proper infrastructure and technological support to make sure it is safe for use.

Reuse of domestic water

A large amount of water is consumed in household activities. If we can find ways to effectively save and manage the excessive amounts of water that is used and wasted in domestic purposes then we can help in reducing the problem to a large extent in long run.

The water in households is used in mainly following activities; cooking, cleaning (washing, bathing, and toiletry etc). A lot of water during these household activities goes to waste and if managed properly can save huge amounts of water. The quality of water that is required for many of our household activities can be compromised. For instance, we need clean fresh water for cooking our food and washing our clothes but not for flushing our toilets. Hence, if we can make systems that can direct water accordingly we can end up saving a lot of water. All we require is some effective management.

Virtual water

Experts are exploring different alternative ways to reduce water crises and over-exploitation of fresh water resources. Some have suggested the idea of virtual water. The idea is that countries with scarce water resources can import good and commodities that require large quantities of water in manufacturing or production. Consequently they can export services and products are less water intensive. For instance, specific return of water is high for cotton, vegetables and fruit.

Rain harvesting

Pakistan has considerable amount of rain around the year. This source of water can be effectively utilized and managed through rain harvesting that is being successfully implemented all around the world. It includes storing of rain water through number of methods. The stored water can be utilized for drinking purposes after filtration, for livestock, sometimes irrigation and refilling of aquifers. This is inexpensive and can be developed anywhere without much effort. The rainwater systems are simple to construct.

There are a number of types of systems to harvest rainwater ranging from very simple to the complex industrial systems. Generally, rainwater is either harvested from the ground or from a roof. The rate at which water can be collected from either system is dependent on the plan area of the system, its efficiency, and the intensity of rainfall. Government and local/private NGOs can help increase awareness about such methods and in turn do capacity building of local communities both in, rural and urban areas.

Micro-dams

There is plenty of water available in Pakistan. Scarcity of water is mainly due to mismanagement of water sources as we have discussed in much detail. Water is available in Pakistan throughout the year but large amounts are lost as a result of floods.

Floods cause a lot of destruction in Pakistan. They damage crops, residential areas and infrastructure of the region they hit. However, floods hit Pakistan in certain time periods during the year and often follow particular patterns. This means that careful study of flood patterns throughout the year can help us create plans to manage them better. Floods in Pakistan follow during the monsoon season when there is considerable amount of rain. Hence, the water is available in large amounts but goes to waste due to lack of storage and mismanagement.

In such situations Micro-Dams can prove to be very useful. Smaller Dams are cost effective and they can be built in larger numbers around different places according to the need of areas. They can be built in regions where there are more floods. This would not only help in reducing the damage caused by floods but will also help in water storage that can be used for irrigation purposes, electricity production and other uses. Construction of dams can also produce employment opportunities for the locals and help in development of the region.

Conclusion

It would be naïve to assume that we can live in a world without problems. Problems are opportunities in disguise waiting to be utilized. This is exactly how we need to look at the problem of water in Pakistan. There is a lot that can be done to turn this crisis into an opportunity. We are not saying that it is going to be easy since we ourselves have let the problem escalate to this level. Yet this does not also mean that there isn’t anything that can be done about it.

What we require is a realistic as well as a systematic analysis or review of our current predicament that can enable us to find ways to sustainably improve the situation in a way that benefits all.

This however, would require that we are aware of our situation, our strengths and weaknesses along with both, our natural and self-imposed limitations.

Our most significant strength is Indus River System. However, since our entire water system is depending on this alone its survival is crucial. During the year we have an entire season, Monsoon, where we have plenty of rain. It’s a major source of water and we need to capitalize on it as prudently as possible for our own sake. Pakistan also has one of the world’s most elaborate canal systems. It is significant to our economy since the entire agriculture of the country depends on it along with livelihood of significant number of population. It is crucial that this canal system is developed, upgraded and sustained according to the changing needs of our economy.

Most of the studies and people see water crisis as a security concern. A crisis that has led to disputes among the provinces. It is true but it can change. Water is one issue that can bring all the provinces together since it’s so crucial for every one’s survival. It’s no longer a choice that we have. Urgency of the situation demands that the provinces talk on the matter of water resources and create shared interests on common grounds. This would require that there is greater integration among the provinces; technological, political, economic and even social.

Yet the major hindrance that stands in our way is governance and a well developed institutional structure. We need a system of governance that can ensure an environment of positivity, security, peace, equity and justice that would allow the institutions to grow and develop.

We have all that we need; a major river system, rainy season and a well developed canal system to exploit and manage it. What we are lacking is the will and vision to turn it into an opportunity for our own positive development. An opportunity to develop entire and elaborate water based economy. It will not only help us in saving our water resources for future but will also create potential spaces for business development, entrepreneurship, investment and employment.

 

This entry was posted in: Sina Series, Vision21

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Vision 21 is Pakistan based non-profit, non- party Socio-Political organisation. We work through research and advocacy for developing and improving Human Capital, by focusing on Poverty and Misery Alleviation, Rights Awareness, Human Dignity, Women empowerment and Justice as a right and obligation. We act to promote and actively seek Human well-being and happiness by working side by side with the deprived and have-nots.

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