WATER IS the primary medium through which climate change impacts ecosystem and people. Managing water resources to ensure a secure supply to growing populations is already a major challenge in many areas of the Asia/Pacific region. Glaciers melt in the Himalayas is projected to increase flooding, and rock avalanches and to affect water resources within the next two to three decades.
Freshwater availability in Central, South, East and South-East Asia, particularly in large river basin, is projected to decrease due to climate change. Expansion of areas under severe water stress will be one of the most pressing and urgent environmental problems in the region, especially in Pakistan. Several adverse impacts of climate change on WASH and WATSAN sector have been evidenced and predicted in Pakistan and these are very much inconformity with the predictions made in the IPCC -2007 assessment report. But at the same time no worth motioning research work has been carried out to encounter the adverse impacts of climate change i,e adaptation and interventions strategies. Therefore, keeping in view the sensitivity and severity of impact of climate change on WASH/WATSAN sector, Pakistan-specific situation analysis has been carried out.
Pakistan Metrological Department in its technical report has elaborated following climate change drivers which are impacting safe drinking water supply improved and sanitation in the country. These factor include air temperature Indicators, precipitation Indicators and future climate projections of Pakistan.
According to the recent study carried out by the Met Department, there has been a considerable temperature variation all over the country especially in the northern Punjab and Potohar region in the recent years.
There is an appreciable variation in the precipitation pattern and has adversely impacted the socio-economical environments of Pakistan. The unprecedented rains/flood during 2010 and 2011 qualifies the predictions/findings of IPCC report.
Over the period of time, considerable groundwater depletion has been observed which is primarily due to less recharge and mining of ground water aquifer. Approximately 7-10ft/year ground water depletion has been observed in Rawalpindi and Islamabad. The major contributing factor towards is less recharge which is due to intense rains and quick run-off.
The effect of climate change on managing available surface water resources is expected to be significant. The sediment transport due to soil erosion and human activities has in return has increased the turbidity levels. Rawal Lake was constructed in 1960 on Korang River to meet the water supply requirement of Rawalpindi. At the time of its construction Rawal Lake was one of the cleanest drinking water lakes of the area but due to erosion in the catchments area, the turbidly of the lake now ranges upto 2700 NTU. With the passage of time and unplanned urbanization in its catchments area the Rawal Lake water quality has deteriorated drastically with increased turbidity which is un-fit for human consumption with treatment.
During current monsoon, Pakistan has experienced particularly northern parts, received unprecedented rains in terms of intensity and quantity during 2010 and 2011 which caused devastating adverse impacts on socio-economic conditions of the affected population.
The stress on water resources of the country is from multiple factors, which includes rapid urbanization, increased industrial activity and dependence of the agricultural sector on chemicals and fertilizers have led to water pollution. Deterioration in water quality and contamination of lakes, rivers and groundwater aquifers has, therefore, resulted in increased water borne diseases and negative impacts on human health.
Water availability on a per capita basis has been declining at an alarming rate. It has been decreased from about 5,000 cubic meters per capita in 1951 to about 1,100.
Keeping in mind the findings of the IPCC-2007, technical paper on water, findings of the various experts on various regions/continents and major conclusions from the critical analysis of the observed and projected adverse impacts of climate change on WASH /WATSAN sector in Pakistan, the following recommendations are made;
a. The adverse impacts of climate change are becoming inevitable; therefore, it is strongly recommended that implementation of “National Action Plan for Adaptation to climate change be ensure by involving all the stakeholders on war footing and fast track basis which provides detailed climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies for Pakistan.
b. Undertaking of second Indus Basin water management project which should include; creation of additional water storage capacity- reservoirs, construction of dykes and spurs for diversion of flood water, creation of new poundage areas all along the IRS, river training works and removal of un-authorized constructions in or around river courses.
c. Initiation of climate change studies at all levels of Governments and thereafter, implementation for adaptation at provincial and local levels, as the climate changes and their associated impacts vary greatly from location to location, therefore, many important decisions about how best to manage systems affected by climate change are made at local and regional levels like provincial water utilities and institutions.
d. Involvement of high tech industries and scientific teaching institutions into climate change core study groups to make the findings more conclusive and workable by way of utilizing in – built capacities of industries for test and trials , any new idea coming up by scientists.