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Lahore
Tuesday, July 5, 2022
EditorialWater-scarce Pakistan

Water-scarce Pakistan

Fears about a severe water crisis in Pakistan are fast becoming a reality. The largest river in Pakistan passing through Sindh is presenting the picture of a desert putting the lives of the surrounding population, livestock and agriculture at the risk of extinction. A drought-like situation is prevailing in the riverine areas of Sindh, where crops are wilting away, livestock is dying of thirst and a large population is becoming a victim of diseases due to drinking scanty polluted water. The situation in Sindh is turning into a national dilemma and the government needs to take concrete steps for ending the misery. It has been a national dilemma that serious issues are dealt with by those sitting at the helm of affairs in our country by applying naïve approaches instead of finding a permanent solution to longstanding problems. The non-availability of water and recurring droughts have become a permanent feature in various areas of Sindh, but the provincial government in Sindh has failed to save the population in these calamity-hit areas. Among the most daunting challenges, malnutrition and water crisis are hitting the population hard.

In fact, a delay in the construction of a major reservoir or dam has started yielding negative results now. According to a media report, Pakistan will be ranked 1oth among countries facing water scarcity in the next five years. The main factors responsible for this bleak reality include unfair distribution of water, successive governments’ lack of interest in building water reserves as 60 percent of water is wasted into the sea, India’s stoppage of water and last but not the least traditional cultivation methods adopted by farmers in Sindh and Punjab.

The Sindh government has always complained about the unfair cuts in its water share and stressed the need for ensuring the availability of water to Sindh. Regrettably, 75 years of independence have passed but the government is still unable to utilise its water resources. Although Pakistan is rich in mineral resources the people are far away from their basic requirements such as electricity and water. Pakistan is highly dependent on agriculture which in turn is dependent on water. The problem of water can be solved only when the decision-makers forget their personal interests and think for Pakistan. Instead of arguing with each other about previous water accords, the main thing is the availability and storage of water. All stakeholders should put their energies to build water reservoirs. Due to controversies over the building of the Kalabagh Dam on the River Indus, now the government has turned to the construction of the Bhasha-Diamer Dam, which too is not entirely free of disputes between upper and lower riparian provinces. Securing funding is not an easy task for such a big project due to its effects on the environment and high cost. The ongoing water crisis is also a result of climate change that is responsible for the shrinking of the glaciers of the Himalayas – the biggest reservoir of fresh water in the world. Faulty downstream management leads to further wastage. Though seepage replenishes the aquifer, it also reduces water availability.

Traditional irrigation methods add to water woes. Instead of using water as per the seasonal crop demand, farmers are in the habit of inundating fields, which causes a lot of water wastage. The most effective and modern irrigation drip sprinkler system is not common. The government needs to build small water storage structures to recharge groundwater. Collecting rainwater to recharge the aquifer is also a good option. Farmers should be imparted awareness on how to more efficiently use limited water to boost food production while conserving water sources. The government should take the latest warning about water scarcity seriously and start efforts for preserving water for our present and future needs.

It is very troubling to note that the federal government has miserably failed in formulating a water policy for the country that could be acceptable to all provinces. There is a need to pay attention to water development and management. The government should pay attention to the water needs of the country and employ innovative methods that can help ward off scarcity and severe droughts. New reservoirs must be built in areas that are hit by flash floods every year. It is time for the government to recognise its responsibilities and start taking steps in the right direction. A consensus must be built for the formulation of a proper water policy that could help ward off an imminent water crisis.

It is not so that the situation in drought-hit areas is beyond human control. Measures can be taken to reduce the direness of the situation. A more practical and long-lasting solution can be the construction of rainwater storage ponds in water-scarce areas. In this regard, the concerned authorities can seek international expertise to work on scientific grounds and take measures accordingly.

The public as well as, the government should stand together to get rid of this issue and to save lives of the innocent ones. Mainly, it is the responsibility of the Sindh government to come to the rescue of these poor souls. It is also an issue for the federal government that it should wake up and fix the water scarcity issue at the earliest.

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