Water emergency

The News International

Capital suggestion

Imagine: nine years from today Pakistan will be facing “severe water shortages or even a drought-like situation.” According to The New York Times, “Energy-starved Pakistanis, their economy battered by chronic fuel and electricity shortages, may soon have to contend with a new resource crisis: major water shortages…” In 1947, water availability for each Pakistani was 5,000 cubic meters per year. Currently, water availability for each Pakistani stands at around 1,000 cubic meters per year – about the “same level as drought-stricken Ethiopia.”

The Third World War will be fought over water, it is said. What are the factors behind Pakistan’s water crisis? The simplest of all answers is: climate change and gross mismanagement of water resources. Climate change is about melting glaciers and decreasing rainfall – and there’s not much we can do about it. Water management, on the other hand, is totally within our domain.

Imagine: “Pakistan’s water crisis is now at par with terrorism in terms of being an existential threat to the country’s security (according to ‘Pakistan’s Water Discourse: Attitudes on Water Management Practices’).” On terrorism, we have the National Action Plan (NAP). Imagine: Pakistan has no implementable National Water Policy.

Yes, agriculture is our backbone – and agriculture means water. Imagine: we have to double our annual food production every 15 years – and that means an increase in water requirement of 50 percent. Imagine: we have no implementable National Water Policy.

Imagine: nine years from now we will be 250 million. Imagine: nine years from now water availability for each Pakistani will be less than 700 cubic meters per year. Imagine: nine years from today Pakistan will be facing “severe water shortages or even a drought-like situation.” And we have no implementable National Water Policy.

Yes there are solutions. One, new water storage projects. Two, irrigation management (including water pricing policies). Three, domestic water supply management, both urban and rural.

In 1960, we built a concrete gravity Warsak Dam. In 1967, a multipurpose Mangla Dam was built (it is now the 7th largest dam in the world). In 1976, we built Tarbela Dam, the largest earth-filled dam in the world. Yes there have been the Greater Thar Canal and the Left and Right Bank Outfall Drain projects. What that proves is that we have the potential. All that is lacking is the political will.

If “Pakistan’s water crisis is now at par with terrorism in terms of being an existential threat to the country’s security” why has there been no progress? Two things. One, an absolute lack of political consensus. Two, financial constraints (which, in essence, is a priority issue especially when we can borrow and spend a colossal Rs162 billion on the Orange Line for the use of 250,000 passengers). Remember, Tarbela was built at a cost of $1.497 billion (in that sense, Orange Line is more expensive than Tarbela).

From ‘water scarcity’ to ‘water starvation’ is the current march. And there’s no stopping. A wise man once said, “Society, my dear, is like salt water, good to swim in but hard to swallow.”

PS: Barrister Fahd Malik’s brutal murder has shaken Islamabad like never before. The credit for arresting the accused gangsters goes to Ch Nisar Ali Khan. The Honourable Chief Justice of Pakistan has now summoned a report from IG Islamabad. Trust in the state – that the state will do the right thing – must be restored, especially in the capital.