Diminishing water availability, a major problem

URBAN POPULATION of Pakistan swelled by over 2.2 million people between 2011 and 2012, now constituting about 38 per cent of the countrys total population of over 180 million. The increased population growth rate as well the massive shift of population from rural to urban areas on one hand has triggered concerns, the rapidly diminishing per capital water availability has rung alarm bells. Fresh official statistics suggest that presently per capita water availability stands at 1,011 cubic metres per capita against 5,269 cubic meters in 1951 and this decline is still on. Experts fear that as the population grows further, the per capita water availability would further drop to 877 cubic meters by 2020 when population will hit estimated 204 million mark. A World Bank report has also depicted the same negative picture about Pakistan, primarily because of the high population growth, over-exploitation of ground water, pollution, poor repairing of water infrastructure, and no financial sustainability of the water management system. The agricultural sector is the most sensitive to climate change as fresh water availability is expected to be highly vulnerable to anticipated changes in climate. Though Pakistan is fortunate to have received the largest irrigation system in the world, but water losses from the system are also the highest globally; due to which the agricultural sector has been affected as it cannot keep pace with the growth in population due to constant water shortages. In addition to that, sometimes contaminated water percentage in the country is as high as 100 per cent, like, in Ziarat where it is 92 per cent, in Sargodha 87 percent, Hyderabad 77 percent and 75 percent in Karachi and Sukkur. Contaminated water is among the 10 greatest risks to human health. The existing water storages are depleting rapidly while ground water level has also dropped in many areas of the country. No doubt that to improve water availability various mega schemes were planned, especially under Water and Power Development Authority Vision 2025, but the delays in timely implementation of these projects have created problems in water availability. Our weather patterns are changing; consequently, the frequency and severity of rains and droughts is increasing. It must, therefore, be done on an incremental basis, targeting selected land parcels for implementation and strict compliance. The government needs to understand gravity of the changing reality and make necessary preparations to deal with it. The task is gigantic, for it also requires re-educating farmers and start taking more serious initiatives to create awareness among all the stakeholders about the negative impacts of water crisis in the country. This is the only doable solution left with the government otherwise no factor can save the country from becoming a water scarce stat in the world.

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