The gravity of the water availability situation in Pakistan can be gauged from the fact that it ranks 14th on the list of 17 countries hard hit by water shortage. Every summer water shortage in the country aggravates due to a variety of reasons. One important reason is the run-away rise in population. This year, summer has set in early. It is only April and the tidings as to the availability of water in the country’s major rivers are not encouraging. The water level in rivers and dams has fallen to alarming levels due to the absence of rain in March.
What is making matters worse is that in the previous winter only 37 inches of snow fell against the annual average of 50 inches. This snow is melting at an excruciatingly low speed. All this has resulted in diminishing the amount of water in the country’s major rivers. Till a few days ago, Mangla Dam had only 3,54000 acre feet of water against its capacity of seven million acre-feet. Now there is only 90,000 cusecs of water in all big rivers, including the Indus, against the past-decade average of 137,700 cusecs. Snow on the mountains will likely melt in the next two months improving the availability of water in the rivers and dams. In the rainy season, the situation is expected to improve further.
For an agricultural country like Pakistan, the ever-worsening shortage of water is a grave issue. It is impacting the economy seriously as the country has to import large amounts of food commodities like wheat, lentils, edible oil and sugar. The international commodity prices have increased to record levels due mainly to the Russia-Ukraine war. The two warring nations are major producers of wheat, oilseeds and fertiliser, so the food import bill of countries like Pakistan would increase further. The growing water shortage in Pakistan is also due to the effects of climate change. The country lacks water storage capacity too as one-third of the rainwater that it receives either flows into the sea or evaporates. Unfortunately, this has been going on for years.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 13th, 2022.
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