Pakistan requires drastic steps to meet rising water scarcity

Lead 04-14STAFF REPORT FBD: Water shortage in Pakistan will increase to 31 per cent of peoples requirements by the year 2025 and this underlines the need for some tangible steps, including slapping of water usage charges and building of storages in order to cope with the problem.

Speakers expressed these view at a recently held seminar arranged by the Department of Irrigation and Water Management Research Centre, University of Agriculture Faisalabad (UAF) in collaboration with the International Centre for Agricultural Research in Dry Areas (Icarda) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to observe World Water Day.

In his remarks on the occasion, International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Country Representative Dr Mahmood Akhtar Cheema said that India is constructing 11 big dams but Pakistan is still in a fix about building of dams.

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“Owing to climate changes, glaciers are melting. And in the absence of water conservation methods, we are experiencing heavy floods causing loss of many lives and damage to agriculture,” he said.

Cheema mentioned that the per capita water availability at the time of creation of Pakistan was 5,600 cubic metres, but it currently stands at only 1,000 cubic metres, placing Pakistan among the water-scarce countries. To tackle the situation, he suggested that the government should apply reasonable water usage charges to discourage wastage of the resource.

Icarda Country Head Dr Abdul Majeed stressed the need for promoting water conservation techniques by sensitising people and taking fruitful measures. He also said that Icardas strategy combined continuity with change, addressing current problems while expanding focus to emerging challenges such as climate change and desertification.

“Pakistan is wasting two-thirds of its water by following traditional conservation methods and agricultural practices,” said Dr Mushtaq Ahmad Gill from South Asian Conservation Agriculture Network in his address on the occasion.

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This means that about 68 million acre feet of water can be brought in use if the canal system is adequately repaired and maintained, he said and stressed the need for addressing the issue of water resource management at local,national, regional as well as international levels.

Citing examples, he said that per capita water availability in the US was 6,000 cubic metres, in Australia 5,500 cubic metres and in China 2,200 cubic metres while in Pakistan, it is only 1,000 cubic metres, posing a threat to peoples lives.

He expressed concern that no authority is working for saving groundwater and suggested that off-channel water reservoirs should be set up to preserve flood water and prevent loss to life and property. “This (saved) water can be used later,” he stressed.

He mentioned that Punjab has around 1.3 million tube wells to pump out groundwater, which is bringing down the water level. Eighty per cent of the tube wells were being run on diesel, increasing the cost manifold and requiring application of alternative methods to face the situation, he suggested.

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UAF Acting Vice Chancellor Dr Iqbal Zafar said that water availability in 2025 would stand at around 100 million acre feet compared to the need of 135 MAF. He stressed the need for increasing water storage capacity to save peoples lives as water resources were shrinking and population was growing rapidly.

To meet the demand for water, he called for kicking off a comprehensive awareness drive to educate people about benefits of judicious consumption and consequences of wastage.

Prof. Dr Allah Buksh was of the view that big dams like Kalabagh should be built to save water for coming generations and application of techniques of efficient use of water was the need of the hour to combat water scarcity.

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