The issue of growing water shortage in our country is unfortunately discussed far too rarely and is hardly given the coverage — on, say, the electronic media — that it deserves, compared to some other issues. Yet, we should be giving far more serious thought to the water crisis we face, given that it could have serious ramifications for us some years into the future, and most certainly for our future generations. Already, the dwindling flow of water in the Indus has led to a crisis in the south of the country, as farmers in Sindh complain of insufficient water to sustain crops and the encroaching sea (the sea takes giant bites out of coastal areas as the size of the Indus Delta shrinks).
A report released by the UN last year described Pakistan as one of the world’s “hotspots” as far as water shortages were concerned and warned of a rapidly worsening situation, exacerbated by global warming and climate change. The rapid melting rate of Himalayan glaciers is also giving rise to global concerns. We simply cannot afford to sit back on our heels and watch in silence any longer. Within some 50 years Pakistan has turned into a country where water is vanishing fast as compared with one where it was once plentiful. The existing sources are badly contaminated and water-borne diseases kill more and more people each year.
The problem can be addressed only if we make it a priority as far as relations with India are concerned. In many ways, the water crisis has far more significance for the lives of ordinary people than the question of Kashmir or terrorism. As experts say, the 1960 Indus Water Basin Treaty, signed at a time when India and Pakistan both had abundant water, is now outdated. A new agreement is required. Tensions such as those that exist over dam construction on the Indus River by India need to be eradicated by creating an environment within which an amicable formula can be devised. This is the only way forward. The alternative is disastrous. We also need to build greater inter-provincial trust, create cooperation based on justice and promote the notion that water is a precious resource which must not be wasted or contaminated in any way.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 15th, 2012.
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