ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday appealed to the countrymen, especially overseas Pakistanis, to generously contribute for building new dams.

In a brief pre-recorded address to the nation, Prime Minister Imran described the ongoing water crisis as the biggest challenge confronting the country. He warned that if new water reservoirs were not built within seven years, the country would be facing a drought-like situation.

“Overseas Pakistanis, especially those living in European countries, should contribute at least $100 to the PM/CJP’s fund for dams,” Imran said.

No foreign country, he said, was willing to lend more loans for building dams because the country was already overburdened by heavy foreign debts.

“I have been briefed by (various) government departments about the challenges being faced by Pakistan on the economy and energy fronts. But in my opinion, the biggest challenge the nation has been facing is water scarcity,” the prime minister said.

He said at the time of the country’s independence, every Pakistani was able to use 5,600 cubic metres of water that had now reduced to just 1,000 cubic metres.

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Highlighting the country’s dwindling water storage capacity, he said water stored in the country’s reservoirs could last just 30 days.

“India has a 90-day capacity while Egypt’s (reservoirs can provide water for) 1,000 days. According to international standards, the safe capacity level is 120 days,” Imran said while citing various statistics.

“Contribute generously. I assure you that I will protect your money for the fund,” he said, adding that contribution in foreign exchange, especially the US dollars, would also help improve the fast-depleting domestic foreign exchange reserves.

He said right now, the government did not have enough money to build dams, but if the nation supported the government in this endeavor, Pakistan could build a dam over the next five years.

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He said the Prime Minister’s Fund for Dams would be merged with the Chief Justice’s Fund. According to him, Rs1.8 billion had so far been collected in the Chief Justice fund for dams.

Praising the chief justice of Pakistan’s initiative, Imran said this should have primarily been tackled by politicians.

“But the political leadership never paid (any) attention to this issue,” he said, adding he had also talked with the chief justice in this regard.

The statement comes hours after the Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD) issued the second drought alert for the year, and advised all the stakeholders to be ready to handle the situation as it is expected that dry conditions will cause water stress in the cultivated areas of the country due to limited supply of irrigation water for Kharif crops.

The prevailing drought-like situation is likely to worsen in the coming days mainly due to insufficient rainfall during summer and monsoon season in lower parts of the country.