According to the World Bank (WB) and Asia Development Bank (ADB), Pakistan is one of the most water-stressed countries in the world. With the 5th largest population in the world, Pakistan ranks fourteen among the 17 extremely high-water risk countries; Over 80% of the total population faces water scarcity. Contributory factors consist of an increase in population, climate change, lack of a solid vision to construct water reservoir, low water productivity, underground water depletion, and reliance on only one river system, Indus River. Moreover, misplaced use of Jhelum and Chenab rivers by India under the Indus Waters Treaty (IWT) of 1960 that has resulted in reduced the flow of water in Pakistan.

The water crisis in Pakistan has two dimensions, the first is the issues within the country and the second is the between countries; India and Pakistan. According to the IWT, India got the control over eastern rivers; Ravi, Bias and Sutlej and can fully utilize water from them while Pakistan got the right to utilize water from the three Western rivers; Indus, Chenab and Jhelum. India was also permitted limited irrigation of 1343 million acres from the western rivers. However, it is written in treaty the India is not allowed to exceed that limit of water usage for irrigation. Despite the Indus Water Treaty, India constructed Kishenganga 1hydroelectric plant 2009 on a attributing of river Jhelum, Rattle Hydroelectric plant 2013 on river Chenab, escalated tensions between two countries. This hydroelectric plant was aimed at diverting the rivers flow through a tunnel to generate hydroelectric power.

Pakistan’s economy is highly dependent on the Indus Basin. Moreover, Indus basin accounts for 96% of total available fresh water. So, it’s the Pakistan’s lifeline of water supply, agriculture and hydroelectric power generation; Indus basin ranked as second most Overground under-stressed water reserve in the world, NASA satellite data 2015, because over 60% of irrigation 70% of drinking water and 100% of Pakistan ‘s industry depends on it.

The water crisis at the national level exits due to the provincial dispute, lack of political will, and failure of leadership. In the past, the public leadership did not succeed to develop consensus on the construction of huge water reservoirs, particularly Kalabagh dam that would have addressed many of the power and water problems that are being faced today. Moreover, provinces are in dispute over their respective share of water under the IWT; Sindh Assembly has demanded scrapping the Hydropower project on the Chashma Jhelum link canal, a key project for the Punjab government.

There is a strong perception in Sindh that the project would divert the flow of water to the province and hurt its agriculture as well. Punjab is exceeded of stealing 16,000 cusses of water between Tounsa and Guddu, from second to 4th February 2010. However, the Punjab government claims that system losses are too blamed for the water that has disappeared.

Pakistan population increased by 2.6 times2 between 1972 and 2020. More population leads to the more consumption of water; Total water usage in Pakistan increased by about 0.7% per year between 1977 and 2017. However, Pakistan population is projected to reach 338,000,000 by 2050. Moreover, due to the increase in population ratio of water withdrawal to renewable water resources going up from 62% to 82% between 1977 and 2017. Lack of water management; Low water productivity, underground water depletion and lack of dams are significant contributing factors to the scarcity of water. Pakistan ranked 36th in total renewable water resources while India ranks it 8th and Bangladesh 12th 2017. Moreover, water resources that static remains at 24.6 billion cubic meters, resulting in a decrease per capital of water resources from 3478 to 1117 cubic meter per year.

Pakistan is considered as 10th most vulnerable country of the world to climate change. Riss in global warming, resulted change in monsoon pattern, rise in temperature and melting of glaciers. Snow and melt runoff currently generate between 50% and 80% of average water flow in the Indus River Basin and this results in landslides, heavy flooding, dam bursts and soil erosion initially and drought and famine in the long-term. 2010 flood caused more than $10 billion and 1600 deaths and affected 38,600 square Kilometers. Moreover, Quetta and most part of Baluchistan experienced eight years of drought-like Situation from 1997 to 2005.

Four Majors crops (rice, wheat, sugarcane and cotton) of Pakistan uses 80% of the country’s water resources which contribute only 5% to GDP. The productivity of these crops is low in Pakistan compared to other major agriculture economies of the world. Poor infrastructure contributes to extensive water wastage.

According to a study, in Pakistan 60 million people at risk of exposure to high concentration of arsenic in groundwater on the Indus Plain: Water-Borne disease are leading cause of death and suffering in Pakistan. Moreover, 60 thousands3 people in Pakistan died due to inadequate water and sanitation facilities: half of them were children under-five.

To address water scarcity in Pakistan, combining short-term interventions and long-term sustainable solutions is necessity. Here is a summary of potential strategies to mitigate water scarcity in Pakistan: Strengthening water governance institutions and policies is crucial. This includes better water resource management, efficient allocation, and effective monitoring systems to prevent wastage and ensure equitable distribution.

Investing in infrastructure projects such as dams, reservoirs, and water storage facilities can enhance water storage capacity, regulate flow, and prevent water loss due to evaporation. Building efficient irrigation systems can also optimize water usage in agriculture.

Moreover, encouraging rainwater harvesting techniques, such as building storage tanks or small ponds, can help capture and store rainwater for domestic and agricultural purposes. Promoting water conservation practices at the household level, such as water-efficient appliances and awareness campaigns, is also crucial. Implementing modern irrigation techniques like drip irrigation and sprinkler systems can significantly reduce water wastage in agriculture. Providing training and support to farmers to adopt these practices is vital.

Establishing wastewater treatment plants can help treat and recycle wastewater for non-potable purposes such as irrigation and industrial use. This reduces the strain on freshwater resources and provides an alternative water source. Raising awareness about water conservation, the importance of water resource management, and promoting responsible water use is essential. Educational campaigns can target communities, schools, and industries to instill a culture of water conservation.

It is important to note that addressing water scarcity in Pakistan requires a comprehensive and sustained effort involving government bodies, communities, NGOs, and international partners. The successful implementation of these strategies can contribute to mitigating water scarcity and ensuring a sustainable water future for Pakistan.

References:

1https://www.britannica.com/event/Indus-Waters-Treaty

2 https://pide.org.pk/research/pakistans-growing-water-crisis/

3https://www.epd.gov.hk/epd/SEA/eng/file/water_index/pakistan.pdf

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