By Abdul Ghaffar Butt.
“Water is not only for life …… Water is life”. This quote by the UN secretary general depicts the crucial importance of water as a need that connects all aspects of human life. People prosperity all around the world directly linked with water availability and usability. Water scarcity turns into drought and ultimately food insecurity. Conversely, too much water in the form of floods and storms can devastate an entire population. Moreover, contaminated water claims the lives of children and adults
Allah has blessed humanity with innumerable bounties and water is topmost of all these. HE has made all creatures out of water as HE mentions in the Holy Quran “We have made every living thing from water”… (21:30). The major reserves of water are present in the form of icebergs and glaciers. Some are present in the state of rivers, ponds and lakes. But unfortunately, with the passage of time, reserves of fresh water are dwindling very swiftly. The most important reason of this is industrialization. In China only coal to chemical industries are responsible for 22pc of the nation’s total water consumption. By 2020, the coal sector will be responsible for 27pc of China’s total water consumption with an estimated 34 billion cubic- meter per year by coal fired plants alone.
Likewise, Pakistan is synonymous in water crisis. For instance, Pakistan storage capacity is about 9.72pc and international storage standard is 40pc. On the whole Pakistan is in limbo condition in terms of its water storage capacity. Before we drift towards catastrophe, it is time to think seriously with planning and action. The most vulnerable sector which might suffer extensively is agriculture which forms the mainstay of our economy and its repercussions are felt in all other sectors. This is a warning style which Pakistan needs to take seriously.
Problems associated with water are perhaps amongst the most important in Pakistan. The country’s water profile has changed drastically in that it went from being a water abundant country to water stressed. Per Capita water availability during the period 1990 – 2015 fell from 2172 to 1300 cubic meters per inhabitant. Pakistan extracts almost 75pc of its fresh water annually, thereby exerting tremendous pressure on renewable water resources. Over 27 million Pakistani do not have access to adequate sanitation facilities. Approximately 39000 children die every year under the age of five from diarrhea caused by unsafe water and poor sanitation.
Moreover, the increasing demand of water in Pakistan is resulting in severe water shortages. There are many factors behind it such as population growth, rapid urbanization and intensive farming practices are playing role in increasing the country demand for water. In contrast, supply side is simultaneously affected by climate change, which in turn, has made rainfall more erratic and led to both floods and droughts. Excessive groundwater pumping has raised major sustainability concerns. Furthermore, poor water infrastructure, including limited storage capacity and inadequate canal lining, such as only in Punjab out of 59,500 watercourses about 43,700 have been improved and 5500 are going to be improved under Punjab irrigated agriculture productivity programme under the financing of World Bank. There are still 10,300 watercourses are need to be improved in Punjab. An estimated 40pc of water is lost in the unlined watercourses due to seepage, spillage, side leakage and evapotranspiration.
Further on, Pakistan has not implemented any major water storage infrastructure project since the commissioning of Mangla and Tarbela dams in 1960 and 1970 and Pakistan storage capacity has receded to less than 30 days, whereas the minimum requirement is 120 days. To curb the water crisis Pakistan have to take some step to pre – empts the energy crisis such as education, by effective agricultural techniques and storage of flood water schemes. By education, we can introduce schemes to arise the awareness of water conversation like Friends of water, which is highly popular in Singapore, about conversation of water. Secondly 10pc challenge scheme also introduced by Singapore to manage the water usage more effectively.
Accordingly, In agriculture techniques Pakistan should have to adopt drip irrigation. This method of irrigation conserves 5opc to 90pc more water than traditional way and increase the crop productivity by 20pc to 90pc. Apart from it, there is water storage scheme by using small ponds and farms. They can collect the water when it is abundant and used it in times of scarcity. Similarly, desalination of water is also one of the viable methods to conserve the water. In just 10 years, two out of three people will be living in a country that is struggling to meet the demand for water, according to the United Nations. But even though Singapore has no aquifers or lakes, it’s unlikely that nation’s 5.5 million residents will be among the world’s thirsty. That’s because the small island nation, which consumes 400 million gallons daily, has a water strategy that is arguably one of the most successful in the world. For instance, Singapore has of the Asia’s largest sea water reserve– osmosis plants which produce about 30 million sqr of water a day and it fulfilled 10pc of Singapore’s water need. Likewise, China desalinate about 0.6 million tons of water a day. In the meantime Pakistan only desalinate 0.3 million imperial gallon per day.
At this point of time water issue is an serious issue which is hovering over Pakistan from the past many years. But unfortunately not only Government but also the citizens do not have any concerns on it. Ironically, Pakistan had already compromise its three eastern rivers to India The Bias, The Ravi and The Sutlej in Indus water treaty in 1960 while Pakistan have control over three western rivers such as The Indus, The Chennab and The Jehlum. Regrettably, now India made a dam known as Kishanganga dam on the Jehlum river which diverts Jehlum water into Indian side. Being a Pakistani at this time we need a proper planning regarding water storage and its utilization because water is life.
Abdul Ghaffar Butt is affiliated with Punjab University Law College and he can be reached at Abghaffar959@gmail.com