Serious joint efforts a must to resolve national water issues

STAFF REPORT ISB: Water shortage as one of the major challenges like energy shortfall, law and order situation, has hit Pakistan badly and this issue would further explode the situation in coming years if result-oriented and effective policies are not devised on an immediate basis. Our agriculture sector, which significantly contributes towards national economy, is on the decline due to constant scarcity of water in rivers and dams.

On the other hand, major portion of national population is not being provided potable water which is causing multiple health diseases especially among children.

Several areas across the country are still facing issues with regard to the quantity as well as quality of water especially the drinking water. The drinking water has a lot of pollutants due to arsenic contamination.

The normal range suggested by scientists is 10 parts per billion (ppb) per litre of water but according to a research study conducted in Punjab and Sindh over 20 percent of population is exposed to the arsenic contamination of over 10ppb in the drinking water while nearly 3 percent of the population is exposed to over 50ppb.

“Arsenic contamination is increasing in whole Sindh and there is a dire need to establish an arsenic mitigation mechanism,” said Muhammad Ali Khawja, an environmentalist from Khairpur, Sindh.

The UN World Water Day has recently been marked across the globe including Pakistan highlighting the significance of the water availability for both agriculture and drinking purpose. Theme of the Day for this year is Water and Sustainable Development.

Despite progress under Millennium Development Goals, adopted in 2000, some 750 million people, more than one in ten of the worlds population, remain without access to an improved water supply.

In Pakistan, women and children in particular are affected by this shortage of water, as not only their health is compromised but also considerable hours are wasted in an unproductive and sometimes dangerous business of collecting water particularly in remote and rural areas.

For instance, the people of Tharparkar, a desert district with a population of 1.5 million, are suffering badly due to contaminated water.

Water over there has high fluoride causing discolouring of teeth and deformation of bones – after 15-17 years of continuous consumption of such contaminated water people become bed-ridden because the nervous system gets affected badly. On the other hand, environmentalists fear that the rapid melting of snow in the central Himalayas in Kashmir due to global warming and recurrent floods in Swat, Kabul and Sindh rivers pose yet another threat to water levels in the Arabian Sea.

While the importance of rain and flood water to land and life in the arid landscape of Pakistan is very crucial, the political will to oppose the construction of Kalabagh Dam amounts to depriving the nation over the years of an extra source of 6-8 MAF water for drinking, food production and energy.

“Pakistans water and electricity problems are not really the problems of our rulers; so they never make concrete projects for the country. Students and civil society will have to play a crucial role in creating a larger consensus, as larger water reservoirs will benefit every Pakistani,” Shamsul Mulk, former chairman Wapda, said while addressing an event held to mark the World Water Day. He said that major changes in policy and management, across the entire agricultural production chain, are needed to ensure best use of available water resources in meeting growing demands for food and other agricultural products.

Water, climate change and food security experts and academia stress the need for coping with disasters particularly climate change through joint and collaborative efforts at all level.

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