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Wednesday, March 22, 2023
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EditorialWater problems

Water problems

In 2018 it was revealed that Pakistan could become water scarce by 2025, meaning that the country will not be able to provide enough water due to physical shortage of it. Another alarming thing that also came forward was that the two largest dams in Pakistan, Mangla and Tarbela, reached their dead storage levels which meant that there was too little water left in them to function properly. This happened twice which raised serious concerns about Pakistan’s water shortages. Pakistan receives an ample amount of water in some areas while about three quarters of the country receives less than 250 millimeters of rain per year and there are many areas that face droughts due to lack of availability of water. Therefore, much has to be done in this area if the country does not want to run out of water completely by 2025 as Pakistan has been termed the 4th greatest user of water in the world.

The reason given by the government for these alarming levels of water scarcity and stress is that there is a lack of reservoirs and large dams in the country for which the crowdfunding method was initiated in 2018. The idea, however, was very much unrealistic and it was said that enough was not raised to fund huge projects such as building of a dam. There is an imminent need for new reservoirs as Pakistan has only up to 30 days’ worth of storage capacity due to which the amount of water available in the dry season is limited and it is also a cause of flooding during the wet seasons as there are few dams to absorb the excess water.

Pakistan’s predominantly agrarian economy accounts for much of the country’s high water demand. The problem with Pakistan’s irrigation system is that it is vast but very much a thing of the past with extremely poor maintenance. The problem does not only exist for the agricultural sector and the problem is not only lack of water but also the quality of water. Out of the total population, only 56% of people have access to safe drinking water and much of the rural population does not have access to clean water. Water politics, in addition to physical impediments to water security, have worsened the problem. As a result of colonial-era water laws and a lack of serious governance, Pakistan’s water policies have come to be dominated by three main factors: a reliance on increasingly archaic laws and frameworks to solve water issues; a strong preference for large-scale engineering projects to solve water issues (the recent push to build two large dams, despite concerns, is an example); and loosely defined water rights. In many situations, who has a right to water is determined by who owns the land. Much of Pakistan’s water infrastructure is also in ruins as a result of a public works management mentality of “build/neglect/rebuild.” That is true even for large-scale engineering projects in Pakistan, such as dams, the failure of which may be disastrous.

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