Water pollution, discharge of effluents and unsafe drinking factors are a direct threat to human wellbeing and Pakistan’s ecosystem. It’s a national dilemma that while some do not have water to drink, others carelessly waste it in vast quantities. The country depends heavily on annual glacier melts and monsoon rains. Water from these sources flows down the rivers and out to the sea. The country’s total available surface water is about 153 million acre feet (MAF) and the total ground water reserves are approximately 24 MAF, of which a substantial part has been mined without allowing for natural recharge. Currently estimated at 200 million, the national population is set to double in 2.5 decades thus further decreasing per capita water availability. By 2003, Pakistan’s per capita availability of water declined to the extent that it was categorized as a water-stress country by the World Bank. Pollution, atrophy, overuse of surface water and over-exploitation of groundwater have led to constant degradation of our water resource base. Large tracts of land have been rendered uncultivable due to water logging and salinity and direct results of mismanaged irrigation. Unsafe drinking water is responsible for numerous diseases including dysentery, diarrhea, typhoid, cholera, malaria and gastroenteritis. UNICEF estimates that 200,000 children in Pakistan die annually due to diarrhoeal diseases alone. The Indus delta has been reduced to one partially active creek and there is no water flowing downstream of the Kotri Barrage for almost the entire year. Our mangrove forests, previously some of the largest in the world, have been reduced from 0.6 million acres to 0.25 million acres. Owing to the poor state of infrastructure, about two-thirds of it is lost due to poor transmission and seepage. This means that about 68 MAF is potentially usable water if the canal system is adequately repaired and maintained. Of the total sweet water availability of approximately 144 MAF, 97 percent is already used in agriculture. We cannot solve a very complex geographical, hydrological, economic and environmental problem through politicking. The relevant authorities need to explore how to make best use of the unused water in massive quantity. Individuals and corporate citizens must engage with decision-makers across the board regarding rational and responsible use of water. Industries, agricultural industries and corporations must move to pollution control, micro-irrigation, recycling and reuse of water on bigger scales. Once this approach is demonstrated, only then the gigantic problem of water scarcity is overcome on a sustained basis and the country can see the dawn of prosperity.
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