By Ali Jabir
ISLAMABAD, Jun 26 (APP): After surpassing the slot of water stressed country, Pakistan is feared to touch the water scarcity barrier due to fast melting glaciers, drying rivers, depleting groundwater resource and above all the poor water management and pricing.
Massive wastage in agriculture sector, commercial and domestic use as well as lack of storage capacity coupled with impacts of climate change with abnormal weather pattern would further aggravate the situation in coming years.
The expert intelligentsia meticulously monitoring the water situation with its jaw dropping researches have rolled out workable solutions in the limited resources available to cope with this challenge and circumvent a major crisis.
“The situation is worrisome. The time has come for prudent use of water as well as ensuring 100% water metering in the country,” remarked Chairman Pakistan Council of Research on Water Resources (PCRWR) Dr Muhammad Ashraf.
Sharing his insights on the water crisis in the country, Dr Ashraf said, “water metering in urban sector, water pricing policy, groundwater regulatory framework, and crop ecological zones as per the water availability is imperative.”
He said the country’s growing water scarcity and inadequate storage capacity will be pushing Pakistan to touch water scarcity level by 2025. “If the water resources remain the same and population continues to rise at the same place, we will be in trouble within next few years.”
The system efficiency of the country’s existing water reservoirs is less than 40% against overall available storage capacity. The country dumps almost 100 million acre feet (MAF) floodwater into the Arabian Ocean annually.
“The low water tariff, absence of groundwater regulatory framework and lack of crop zoning left the meager water resources at the disposal of less informed and imprudent agricultural practices of the farmers,” Dr Ashraf said.
He said on the one hand floods of 2010, 2011 and 2014 incurred a loss of 90MAF to the country on the other hand millions of tones sedimentation depositing to Tarbela Dam every year was diminishing its potential to conserve water resource.
Interestingly, the unique terrain of the country unveils matchless opportunities having 18 MAF hill torrent water potential that could be conserved and used for irrigation to household purposes, the PCRWR chairman said.
Pakistan is the country that bears the largest aquifer (groundwater) reservoirs that are also being pulled out at an extreme pace where the water table depletion is spiking up at a dangerous pace.
“What we need, is implementation of national water policy and climate change policy in letter and spirit as well as result oriented interventions to set our direction right,” Dr Ashraf said.
Citing the example of rice cultivation, he said, in the modern world even water intensive crop could be grown with minimal use of water. “Lack of knowledge on irrigation practices also causes lots of water wastage. Therefore, we need to improve governance and promote use of technology and better sowing practices.”
After Ravi, Satluj, Chenab and Jehlum, the cradle of thousands of centuries old Indus River system is also dying and if timely actions are not ensured, impending water scarcity may lead to food insecurity.
In this situation, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Economic Growth and Agriculture Expert Muhammad Nawaz has recommended a holistic approach with the involvement of all stakeholders to counter this challenge.
“Water governance involves all stakeholders for enhancing management and judicious use of water,” Nawaz said. “Pakistan’s water resources may decline to a drastic level in near future amid growing environmental crisis, global warming, population and absence of new reservoirs.”
He said water market has vast potential in Pakistan. But, presently, the rich and landlords use major chunk of water resource on nominal charges. “Therefore, there is an urgent need to introduce water pricing to ensure water availability for underprivileged class during years ahead.”
Nawaz emphasized that those owning thousands of acres of land should pay accordingly because it was them who consume massive amount of water.
He quoted the example of Israel where economy grew by 70 times but better governance helped them conserve ample water resource.
The experts has stressed immediate steps and better governance of available water resource fearing that any further delay could make us face serious repercussions and even national security issues.
“Water scarcity would have serious consequences for our food security, infrastructure development and above all national security,” stated Head of Agriculture and Coordination at Global Change Impact Studies Centre (GCISC) Dr Muhammad Arif Goheer.
He however pinned hopes with country’s aim to enhance water storage capacity and shift to 60% renewable energy from indigenous resources by 2030. But, said, “it would be only beneficial when the efficiency issues are properly addressed.”
He also mentioned to trans-boundary issues, deterioration of water infrastructure, inefficient agricultural practices, unplanned urban growth and treatment of industrial and municipal waste water, changing weather pattern and melting glaciers as major issues.
In view of gradually dwindling Indus water system, Dr Goheer said, “we need to harness flood water potential. “But, if we see the figures, the situation is otherwise. Instead of conserving and benefiting from flood water, it cost our economy US$ 20 billion during 2010-2021 in terms of losses.”
In view of this situation, there is an urgent need for a workable mechanism to water conservation and ensure its prudent use by all sectors of economy