Water resource is a necessity for sustaining life on earth. According to an IMF report, Pakistan ranks third among countries most affected by water scarcity. At present, per capita annual water availability is 1,017 cubic metres — perilously close to the scarcity threshold of 1,000 cubic metres which was about 1,500 cubic metres back in 2009.
Last year, the Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources (PCRWR) warned that the country might run dry by 2025 if the authorities didn’t take immediate action. It said the country touched the “water stress line” in 1990 and crossed the “water scarcity line” in 2005.
Experts say that population growth and urbanisation are the main reasons behind the crisis. The issue has also been exacerbated by climate change, poor water management, and a lack of political will to deal with the crisis.
Michael Kugelman, South Asia expert at the Washington-based Woodrow Wilson Center, in his interview to DW-TV said, “Pakistan is approaching the scarcity threshold for water. What is even more disturbing is that groundwater supplies — the last resort of water supply — are being rapidly depleted. And worst of all is that the authorities have given no indication that they plan to do anything about any of this increasing water shortage.”
The UN report also highlights that the most immediate threats to the masses would be of increasing water shortage, and Neil Buhne, UN Humanitarian Coordinator, Pakistan, said, “No person in Pakistan, whether from the north with its more than 5,000 glaciers, or from the south with its ‘hyper deserts’, will be immune to this.”
Recent flash floods as a result of heavy rainfall have been witnessed in different areas of Pakistan for instance Lahore and Faisalabad. The DG ISPR had already alerted the nation that future wars would be fought on the issue of water. These wars would not only lead to civil wars but would also extend its arms to international boundaries. Water shortage as well as incidence of flash floods could be dealt by simple adoption of 3Rs of environment, ie Reduce, Recycle and Reuse.
Reduce the water use at the point source that is at household level, eg, turning off the tap when you brush your teeth, using limited amount of water for flushing, and for washing as well as other related purposes.
Recycling at household level would also help in solving the problem. Instead of using shower for taking bath, replace it with simple water bucket. For gardening purpose, use simple rainwater barrels. Rainwater barrels are aboveground water storage vessels. They capture rain runoff from a building’s roof using the gutter and downspout system. Apart from it, rain garden could be constructed so that it reuses water that would otherwise run off into the sewage systems. Installation of grey water system would be helpful in diverting water from your shower drain for flushing the toilet.
Reusing the water used for washing vegetables, pastas at normal temperature could be used for several purposes like for gardening.
For the agriculture system, irrigation management practices may solve the problem. According to the World Bank “irrigation management works to upgrade and maintain irrigation systems, such as groundwater irrigation, that are already in place and expands the areas of irrigation to increase the amount of crops being produced”. According to the book Rainfed Agriculture: Unlocking the Potential, 80% of the land farmed around the world is rain-fed and it “contributes about 58% to the global food basket”. Along with the rain-fed management practice, some techniques are the use of supplemental irrigation and water harvesting techniques, such as rain catchment systems and weirs or sand dams. These techniques help provide much-needed water to areas where rainfall is inconsistent.
Other measures may include formulation of a national action plan for combating chronic water shortage, devising realistic water policy with population-based distribution of water resource, construction of new dams, reducing water losses from seepages, leaching and percolation by lining of canals, distributaries and water channels along with restricted or controlled draining of underground aquifers may solve the issue.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 26th, 2018.