Core component: Water mismanagement set to drown country

Published: September 22, 2014
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Pakistan’s storage capacity today, which should ideally be around 1,000 days given its climate and resources, stands at a meagre 30-day supply. PHOTO: STOCK IMAGE

Pakistan’s storage capacity today, which should ideally be around 1,000 days given its climate and resources, stands at a meagre 30-day supply. PHOTO: STOCK IMAGE

KARACHI: Water is one of the primary sustainers of life and ironically one of the scarcest resources in the country.

Unfortunately, despite possessing glaciers, Pakistan remains one of the world’s most water-stressed country.

Why is that? One simple conclusion is our failing water management strategies.

A further cause for alarm is the rapid rate of global warming. Nearly one-fifth of the glaciers in this region have disappeared over the last 30 years and in the next 20 it is expected that they will disappear completely.

Impact will be devastating as the entire population downstream depends on them for food, energy and cultivation.

Despite knowing that the sword is hanging over our heads, the administration and politicians continue to procrastinate.

At the time of partition, India had 344 dams while Pakistan had only 1. Today, India has 4,710 completed large dams and 390 are under construction, while Pakistan has only 143. To meet our current needs, we need over 500.

Pakistan’s storage capacity today, which should ideally be around 1,000 days given its climate and resources, stands at a meagre 30-day supply.

Due to lack of water storage capacity, Pakistan loses 13 million cusecs every year into the Indian Ocean, which also creates huge devastation through yearly floods.

On the other hand, during periods of reduced water flow, seawater damages up to 100 kilometres of cultivable lands. Being a country where 90% of the water resources are used for agriculture, poor water management can be devastating.

Since the Indus Water Treaty (IWT) signed in 1960, India has taken undue advantage and has created more dams than allowed to worsen the water situation in Pakistan. It is reported that Pakistan deliberately did not show up at the last IWT dispute hearing at the International Court of Arbitration in Geneva, thus permitting India with the over construction of Kishanganga Hydropower project on river Neelum in violation of IWT.

Addressing the water crisis is necessary to ensure future economic development as well as the survival of the growing population. Global warming, climatic changes and regional politics further exasperate our situation.

Being an agriculture-based country, our food security continues to deteriorate since 2003; in 2014 we stood at 77th position among 107 on Food Security Index. Food security is inadequate in 61% of the districts. Pakistan’s economic and social stability depends on how well we can overcome this imminent water crisis before it is too late to do anything.

We need to appoint qualified and trustworthy people to protect and guard Pakistan water rights as envisioned in the IWT.  Bottomline, we desperately need a comprehensive yet sustainable strategy to cope with this life-threatening challenge to our very existence.

The writer is associated with the corporate sector

Published in The Express Tribune, September 22nd, 2014.

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Reader Comments (5)

  • David Salmon
    Sep 22, 2014 - 4:08AM

    @Saad Amanullah: I question your claim that India has taken “undue advantage” of the Indus Water Treaty and that Pakistan has been negligent in protecting Pakistan’s interests. Pakistan is entitled to the flow of its three rivers, but India and Kashmir are entitled to make full use of that flow to generate electricity so long as it does not reduce the flow over the long term. It seems to me that the arbitrators’ rulings have been fair, practical, and within the terms of the Treaty in each case.

    Pakistan might be wiser to ask India to cooperate in creating reservoirs on the Jhelum to hold the vast flood that lately devastated both the Kashmir Valley and the Pakistan lands downstream. Had there been a deeper flood relief channel along the Jhelum, the Kashmir Valley could have been rapidly drained. Take a look at Google Earth’s crisis map of the region: the water is backed up across the Kashmir Valley, unable to empty fast enough. A flood channel seems inevitable. But without a flood reservoir below it to capture the deluge, the damage to Pakistani agriculture and cities would be even more intense.

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  • Usman
    Sep 22, 2014 - 6:31AM

    As if writing about it in the newspaper will do anything. India is going to dry up Pakistan faster than we can think, we need to get rid of incompetent Nawaz now and hold fresh elections, then sort out our water issue asap.

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  • AVPMPolpot
    Sep 22, 2014 - 6:35AM

    Paki Logic ” India has taken undue advantage and has created more dams than allowed to worsen the water situation in Pakistan.”
    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
    So has India breached the IWT? How taking ‘ advantage’ has caused worsening of water situation in Pakistan?
    It appears to me that the logical and rational thinking has suffered the most in Pakistan.

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  • Strategic Asset
    Sep 22, 2014 - 7:27AM

    Since the Indus Water Treaty (IWT) signed in 1960, India has taken undue advantage and has created more dams than allowed to worsen the water situation in Pakistan.

    Strange that an otherwise logical and cogent article has the above blatant lie inserted within it.

    India has been extremely generous with Pakistan by acceding to the IWT and sticking to it despite four wars initiated by Pakistan. If Pakistan does not like the IWT, then maybe its time for India to revoke it.

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  • indian
    Sep 22, 2014 - 3:30PM

    If pakistanis don’t want IWT than they must break the treaty. It will beneficial for both, pakistan as well as India.

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