Saving water

The twin problems of growing water shortage and the declining land fertility have hit Third World countries the most

August 11, 2021

Meeting the food and other needs of an increasing population in most parts of the world has resulted in water shortage and decrease in soil fertility at the global level. The twin problems of growing water shortage and the declining land fertility have hit Third World countries the most because of their failure to keep population increase proportionate to their resources. Experts have regularly been warning that in about three decades Pakistan would face a severe water shortage. Now there is another alarm bell that Punjab would have consumed all its underground water in the next 25 years due to injudicious use of this natural resource. The growing water shortage is being caused by both natural causes and mismanagement at the official level. In recent years, rainfall patterns have become erratic. Rains are either insufficient or there is excess rainfall, which causes floods. Much of the water flows into the sea. This is because of the lack of scientific harnessing of water.

As Punjab faces shortage of canal water, farmers also use underground water through tube wells to irrigate their lands. Over the years, the province has seen a quantum jump in the number of tube wells. From 10,000 tube wells in 1947 this number has grown to 1.2 million. A large amount of canal and subsoil water is lost on the way to fields because water is absorbed by muddy watercourses in the absence of brick-paved channels. At present, 11 MAF water is lost due to muddy watercourses and 21 MAF is wasted because of uneven soil. The provincial government has launched a project to brick-lined water channels. The existing irrigation system in the province is inadequate to meet the present challenges. The government has also introduced other measures to conserve water such as drip irrigation technique and levelling land using laser technology. Above all, there is the need to strike a balance between the number of mouths to feed and the country’s agricultural resources.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 11th, 2021.

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