Pakistan is a water-deficient country, so it needs to take all necessary measures to save water. It is estimated that 30 million acre feet of water goes to waste every year in the country due to carelessness. The wastage of water at this enormous scale is alarming as it is feared that the country would face a severe shortage of water by 2025 if effective steps are not taken to conserve the precious commodity.
The irrigation department of Punjab province claims that it has reduced irrigation water losses by 10% by implementing the latest scientific techniques and better management practices. Several projects to cut water losses are underway, including one in the Potohar region that depends mostly on rains for irrigation. Several other water conservation projects are at different stages of completion. Officials have long been pointing out that the main reason for water shortage is theft; farmers at the tail-end of canals corroborate this assertion. Growers at the tail end of canals seldom get sufficient water to irrigate their lands as influential farmers divert water to their fields by breaching canals. Water theft causes friction between provinces.
Experts have long been complaining that the Indus Delta has turned nearly dry because it does not receive the required amount of freshwater. And during the rainy season when there are floods due to excessive rains, well-connected farmers divert floodwaters to lands of other cultivators to protect their own lands. The diversion of floodwaters during the floods in 2010 and 2011 are glaring examples of this dishonest practice. Even the Indus River System Authority had admitted that a large quantity of water goes to waste. In Punjab, efforts are being made to cut water losses. The aim is to increase the water-saving capacity from 13 million acre feet to 25 million acre feet. Theft of water has long been continuing even though canal officers have the powers to arrest without warrant those breaching and tampering with canals.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 13h, 2021.