By: Qurrat-Ul-Ain Rehman
Act before it’s too late
Water is one of the basic necessities of life. No life could have been possible on the planet Earth, had there been no water. However, it is a sad reality that we do not bother to take proper measures for securing and preserving our natural resources unless crises start knocking at our door. Although water is one of the most important natural resources we have, the world is facing a grave crisis of its scarcity, owing mainly to the global warming and Pakistan is also no exception in this regard. At present, Pakistan is confronting a number of issues but perhaps the most daunting of them is the shortage of water. This problem is aggravating with each passing day. According to a recently released International Monetary Fund report, Pakistan ranks third among countries facing water shortage. One of the major reasons behind this issue is absence of proper measures to conserve water. Around 30 million acre feet (MAF) of water is wasted due to poor management. Economic cost of this water is in billion dollars. Due to this issue, the per capita availability of water in Pakistan is consistently on the decline. Pakistan possesses only a thirty-day water-storage capacity. Besides, the Pakistan Council of Research on Water Resources (PCRWR) has warned that Pakistan would reach absolute water scarcity by 2025.
There are a number of reasons behind the shortage of water in Pakistan. Before blaming the rulers and concerned authorities, we must blame ourselves for our carelessness and slackness in saving water. We don’t take proper measures while using water for household activities. That is why the gap between availability and demand of water has increased manifolds. We should turn all the taps off while we are not using water. Moreover, there is an urgent need to educate the masses on proper use of water. The role of media is imperative in this regard. TV channels should air different programmes to create awareness among the people. The need of the time is to take steps at individual level.
On a larger scale, we must construct new water reservoirs and construction of dams is also imperative to overcome the issue of water shortage. We have to realize that this acute problem cannot be overcome unless dams are constructed. Unfortunately, our government is not paying heed to this fact. Currently, there are only 150 dams of above 49-foot height in Pakistan.
Deteriorating situation of our dams is another worrisome phenomenon. Mangla Dam and Tarbela Dam became operational in 1967 and 1974 respectively, and these are now reaching dead level. But, not even a single major reservoir has been constructed since Tarbela. Now, there is a dire need to construct major reservoirs in Pakistan. In addition, the construction of small dams in different suitable areas could help us overcome the chronic issues of energy crisis and water scarcity. It is worth mentioning here that the current per capita availability of water in Pakistan has reached 1016 cubic metres and if it falls below 1000 cubic metres, Pakistan will become a water-scarce country.
Sometimes, expensive and improper ways of irrigation lead to wastage of water. A proper irrigation system with strict checks and balances could prevent this menace. In many areas of our country, water is stolen to irrigate lands. So, in order to curb this problem, modern irrigation and agricultural equipments and gadgets are most pressingly needed. Their application is also inevitable to cope with the shortage of water which not only destroys land but also affects the production of crops. This further burdens the national economy.
Population of Pakistan is also increasing rapidly and, as a result, the need for water too is on the rise. So, we need more energy and more water for domestic, agricultural and industrial use. On the other hand, the supply of water is decreasing amidst an exponential growth in its demand. At present, around 40 percent Pakistanis do not have access to clean drinking water. Furthermore, the non-availability of water causes a number of diseases and problems. Extremely poor performance of the solid waste management authorities is also causing water pollution in many areas.
So, amidst all these issues, the federal and provincial governments must take proper, immediate measures. There is an urgent need to formulate and implement pragmatic policies and while drawing up them, the solution to this problem must be the top priority of all the future governments as well. At this point, Pakistan is gradually running short of water. It is an alarming situation for all of us. Constructions of new dams, plantations of trees, responsible use of household water, awareness campaigns, conducting seminars at institutional level, effective role of the authorities concerned and of the media are some factors that can help us solve this gigantic problem. Water pricing and the distribution of water should be done by adopting adequate policy measures. We need to realize these things before visualizing a better future.