With Pakistan failing to improve water governance and taking measures to save rapidly-depleting water resources, climate change coupled with rapid urbanisation and population growth would further impact the availability of water, making it one of the most water-stressed countries of the world.
According to the data released by the World Resources Institute (WRI), which defines water stress as the ratio between total water withdrawals and available renewable surface water at a sub-catchment level, Pakistan is predicted to be the most water stressed country in the region by the year 2040.
The report, which scores every country on the scale of zero to five, with the higher number representing the most water-stressed, stated by 2040 Pakistan would be 23rd most water-stressed country in the world with an average score of 4.48, unless it changes its ways and works on water conservation.
Pakistan’s ranking is projected to improve over the years from 18 in 2020 to 23 in 2040; however, it should not be taken as a sign of improvement as Pakistan’s average score would increase 0.15 from 4.33 in 2020 to 4.48 in 2040. The improvement in ranking is likely due to more deteriorating situation in countries like Azerbaijan, Armenia and Iraq.
Among the three sectors identified by the report, namely industrial, domestic and agriculture, the worst to be affected is agriculture. The competition for use of water faced by those engaged in agricultural activities is expected to rise from 4.35 to 4.50, while water stress for domestic consumers would rise from 4.01 in 2020 to 4.23 in 2040.
On the contrary, the water stress situation is likely to improve slightly in India. The report predicts that water stress being faced by Indians is likely to drop from 3.70 in 2020 to 3.61 by 2040.
Middle East to be worst-affected
The WRI’s report said that the Middle East, which is already the least water-secured region in the world, would face exceptional water-related challenges for the foreseeable future as 14 of the 33 most likely water-stressed countries in 2040 are in the Middle East, including nine of which are considered extremely highly stressed with a score of 5.0 out of 5.0. These are Bahrain, Kuwait, Palestine, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Oman and Lebanon.
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While drought and water shortage contributed to the Syrian civil war, as depleting water resources and mismanagement forced 1.5 million people to migrate from their land, water scarcity is highly likely to further escalate the Israel-Palestine conflict as well.
Quoting the Saudi Arabian government, the report said from 2016 onwards, the Kingdom will rely on grain imports for domestic use due to fear of a further depletion of water resources.