By: Gulrukh Imran Virani
The most valuable natural resource on the planet is water. Without it, there would be no life on this planet. Sadly, water is becoming more limited, and there are a number of reasons for this. A worldwide water crisis is the biggest global risk based on the destruction it is projected to cause, according to a World Economic Forum assessment. Even though Pakistan is blessed with the world’s largest glacial resources, the country is now experiencing a water crisis. Pakistan’s water supply is primarily reliant on the Indus Basin, and the predicted demand and supply mismatch is causing problems at the home, agricultural and industrial levels. In Pakistan, water shortages are a nightmare that is both real and imminent.
Pakistan is having a financial crisis, but the water crisis, which is the country’s biggest problem, is being ignored. Pakistan’s financial woes are widely reported in the media. The comparisons made to Sri Lanka are unjustified and ill-founded. After the country’s budget is announced on June 10 and the IMF releases a tranche of $900 million, China, Saudi Arabia, and other nations will follow suit and put some funds into the country’s coffers. But Pakistan’s economy and, by extension, its politics will continue to be affected by other problems.
The extreme water problem is the most serious of these issues. This problem threatens Pakistan’s energy and food security, as well as the country’s security as a whole. It also threatens the agricultural sector, which makes up 23% of Pakistan’s GDP and employs 42% of the country’s workers.
The Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE) has released a paper titled “Water Crisis in Pakistan: Manifestation, Causes and the Way Forward” that provides startling figures on the severity of the problem. Pakistan wastes one-third of the water it has, making it one of the world’s “very high water risk” nations. A “severe water shortage” affects more than 80% of the country’s population. In 1962, Pakistan had a population of 5,229 cubic meters per person. In 2017, that number was only 1,187 cubic meters.
The volume of water extracted from a source may be characterized as the water withdrawal rate, which indicates the severity of the problem (surface or groundwater). Please keep in mind that water consumption does not take into account the amount of water that has already been utilized (evaporated, used by plants or humans, etc.). Withdrawal to water resource ratio ranks Pakistan at 160th, better than just 18 nations. Furthermore, the nation barely processes 1% of its waste, which is one of the lowest rates in the world. Up to 40% of Pakistan’s water loss is caused by leaks, seepage, and uneven bank slopes.
More than 97% of Pakistan’s freshwater is used for agriculture. – Pakistan The country’s main industry is in jeopardy because of the water issue. In addition to water scarcity and drought, Pakistan’s crops are affected by waterlogging and salt, which account for 60% of agriculture’s GDP contribution. By 2025, there is predicted to be a food shortage of around 70 million tons.
According to these estimates, Pakistan’s landmass is anticipated to be 30 percent waterlogged and 13 percent salty by the end of the century. As a result of the country’s increasing water shortage, it is possible to discern an existential danger. Water availability has an impact on crop yield. Cotton, a key component of the country’s textile sector, will be impacted. Wheat and sugar cane are two more crops that demand a lot of water.
An expert on Pakistan’s water management, Col. Abid, believes that “climate change, the indifference of successive administrations toward rising water deficits at all levels, and the lack of planning have resulted in a grave water catastrophe” in Pakistan. While “the issue is becoming worse,” he said, “the nation has reached a point when its water management system seems to be developing in the wrong way.”
The lack of water is also causing an increase in water logging and salt in the environment. Dam storage capacity has been reduced, which has resulted in a decrease in per-acre water availability. In order to deal with this issue, farmers are increasingly putting in tube wells. In much of Punjab and Sindh, salinity has thus become a severe concern. Many economic crops, including cotton and rice, are grown in Sindh, but water shortages have a negative impact on output and exports. Arsenic poisoning is on the rise as a consequence of declining water tables and the subsequent pumping of water to fulfil rising demand. Many parasitic illnesses and fatal viruses, such as dengue fever, are being spread because of the scarcity of safe drinking water. Sewage disposal issues are also increasing pollution and heating as a result of water shortages. The Pakistani government must take drastic action to avoid a water disaster.
According to a United Nations projection, Pakistan’s population will reach more than 380 million by 2050. Furthermore, by 2025, Pakistan’s demand for water is predicted to rise by 274 million acre feet (MAF) compared to 191 million acre feet (MAF) of available water.
A major issue is that no one is concerned about the danger I have identified to Pakistan’s national security, including politicians, the media, and the general population. The vast majority of talk shows on television nowadays are devoted to discussing politics and who said what to whom. This has to be fixed. As long as Pakistan’s water situation isn’t dealt with in a proactive manner, it might lead to province-to-province warfare, which could further damage the country from the inside if it isn’t handled immediately.
Priority should be given to resolving the water situation and ensuring that it is managed effectively. Pakistan should declare a water emergency and work with the world and domestic community to find a solution before it’s too late.