Pakistan is water stress country it is estimated by Pakistan council of Research in water resources that our country may became dry in 2025, if our government or authorities did not take any action in near future years. Pakistan is actually the third most water stressed country. Per capita available water is just 1017 cubic meter which is nearly equal to threshold level. On the other hand, Pakistan is at fourth number in water use which is highest rate of water use. No other country is such water intensive than Pakistan. Most of irrigation depends on canal systems but it is highly underpriced and cannot meet even ¼ of its cost of operation and maintenance. In addition to it agriculture that consumes almost all surface water is untaxed. This is causing complications in water menagement.
Agriculture is the largest industry of the world and our national economy is also depending on it. It provides 60% labor but our drawback is due to the inefficient agriculture system which is the major cause of water shortage in our country. Agriculture abstract 90 to 97% of water from Indus river but crops can get only 30 to 35% of that water. Agriculture waste uses 60% of water. Our agriculture has lack of sustainability that is harmful for our environment because it can cause dryness of our lakes and rivers and underground water resources, soil quality is also decreasing as salinity is increasing due to use of underground brakish water. Downstream ecosystem is also destroyed by increasing use of pesticides and insecticides.
Cotton, sugarcane and rice are important crops of Pakistan but these crops have tremendous effect on our system due to environmental pollution and high amount of water requirement. These crops are termed as “water intensive” or “thirsty crops”. As cotton is our most important cash crop and grown on large area but worldwide it is grown only 2.4% of the farming land because about 24% insecticide market depends on cotton about 75% cotton is grown on irrigated lands so causes damage in ecosystem in Indus delta of Pakistan. But cotton contribute about 1.9% to our GDP so we cannot sacrifice on it, we have to adopt management practices for cotton production as it has high water demand for production for 1 kg of cotton lint about 1000-1700 liters of water is required as it requires water from planting to proceesing besides of this, farmers cannot get their reward due to lack of sustainability in our policy making. That’s why our farmers are still hungry although they are providing their best to the crops.
On the other hand, sugarcane is also important crop contributing towards GDP of 0.9% but it causes loss in the biodiversity of ecosystem by only single product. Sugarcane sugar beet has negative impact on soil water and also on environment. It has high delta demand 64 to 80-acre inch from planting to maturity and stand in the field for more than any other crop and decrease the biodiversity, major problem of sugarcane is to send it to market. Because it has to dump in market as early as possible. But nowadays market problem is decreasing as government is taking some personal interest in sugarcane production but due to high demand of water and to stay in the field both are its drawbacks. We have to add more crops in the field and provide efficient water use, production technologies and produce those varities which have low water demand. About 90% rice is grown in asia. Our traditional farming of rice needs about 4000 liters of water to produce 1 kg of water which is not feasible for us in present scenario as we are already in one of water scarce countries we have to adopt those techniques which are using less amount of water as “Direct seeded rice” or “system of rice intensification” by adopting these techniques we can produce rice by saving 30% water. It is need of time that we have to adopt those crops which are feasible to our resources.
Conclusion: Pakistan water management authorties are working on better management practices for high delta of water crops which is need of time otherwise we have to change our cropping system that can save our agriculture and our economy. But new water storage structures are need of time our government should have to do work on it otherwise delaying this can cause severe consequences on our economy.
This article is collectively authored by Farwa shehzadi and Muneeba University of Agriculture Faisalabad.