Wastewater irrigation: an alarming threat to Pakistan

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WITH THE increase in urban population and the expansion of metropolitans in the country, the wastewater release in fresh water sources is becoming a menace for authorities. Huge quantities of wastewater are being released into surface water mostly without treatment, or with a very little management. Usually, the downstream of urban areas are comprised of irrigated lands where agriculture practices rely on the surface water mixed with this wastewater. In a recent study it is exposed that Pakistan is among top five countries, China, India, Mexico, and Iran, which account for about 85.7 percent of downstream irrigated croplands with a high probability of untreated reused water. Most of the croplands in Pakistan are located in catchments or peri-urban areas, and these areas highly depends on the urban wastewater flows. More specifically, the water treatment facilities are almost nil in these areas, while contamination and pollution concentration are high. Practice of wastewater agriculture is popular in many countries, where huge amount of river and canal water is utilized by urban population that turns into contaminated water and ultimately it seeps down the agricultural land. In peri-urban areas of Pakistan, farmers hold small lands and its hard for them to invest on their crop, so that they prefer free of cost or cheapest available mode of irrigation. The studies also disclosed a different phenomenon, that farmers are willing to pay extra for wastewater instead of fresh water due to high nutrients value of wastewater, that reduces their expense on fertilizers. A study carried during 2009 by University of Agriculture, Faisalabad analyzed that wastewater irrigation has higher cost-benefit ratio than freshwater irrigation, irrespective of health risks associated with it. The net value from investment in wastewater irrigation area, returned on average PKR 5.56 as compared to PKR 2.20 for fresh water irrigation area. But when compared to health risks, it exposes that annual per person average days of illness in wastewater irrigation area are 11.44 days as compared to 8.04 days in fresh water irrigation area. The contaminated and hazardous wastewater irrigation is not only badly affecting human health but also soil texture and fertility. To resolve these problems, the Irrigation Systems and Water Management Program (ISWM) was established in 1991 under Water Resources Research Institute (WRRI). WRRI is being responsible for development and evaluation of water management interventions for groundwater and low-quality water management for sustainable crop production. Government is unable to invest in wastewater treatment and failed in provision of healthy agricultural products. A water supply among agriculture, industry and for domestic use is a big challenge for authorities. In Pakistan, every year availability of water is decreasing, we have to opt for efficient ways of irrigation. On the other hand, global warming is the bigger threat for the agriculture sector. Continues increase in temperature will not only affect the evaporation but also the water needs of crop and other consumptions as well. Pakistan is an agriculture country, which contributes more than 21 percent to country’s GDP and empowering more than 45 percent of labor force. Here is the point to ponder that Pakistan’s future is water scarce which will badly affect diverse sections of the country and population. Necessary interventions are required for both ends of consumer and supplier to slow down the water wastage as well as to create new smart methods of conservation.


Published in: Volume 08 Issue 46

Short Link: https://www.technologytimes.pk/?p=19531