Water Security: A Broad Analysis/ Forecast of its Implications for Pakistan

Introduction

Since the latter half of the twentieth century, there has been an exponential rise in the withdrawal and consumption of water owing to phenomenal increase in world population especially in the urban areas, rising living standards, energy production, industrial growth and expansion of agricultural land. At the same time, global warming involving changes in climate and global hydrological cycle coupled with numerous other factors are fast turning the freshwater resources of the world into a fast depleting resource. Water security is a major concern worldwide. In times to come sharing of freshwaters is being prophesied to become a source of conflict. The issue can even spoil the domestic scene of the nations, giving rise to water based conflicts within their communities. In Asia, where most of the irrigated lands of the world are located, the situation is more precarious due to sharing of the rivers between the nations.

Statement of the Problem

In Pakistan, water plays a significant role in its economic development through irrigation, which is the mainstay of agricultural production, power generation and food security. As the country enters the 21st century, it is facing an enhanced demand for water to sustain its burgeoning population that is expected to reach 221 million by the year 2025.

Ironically, poor management of existing water resources, water-sharing issues between its own provinces and with India, and increasing water demand have resulted into Pakistan facing an existing shortfall of 9 million acre feet (MAF), which is projected to rise to 25 MAF by 2020. Uneven rainfall and Pakistan’s reliance on a single river system, the most exploited in South Asia, leaves little flexibility to mobilize more water than it uses. Excessive mining for tube wells is also depleting the underground water resource, of which 36% is highly saline and the percentage is on the rise. Pakistan is hence approaching the utilization limits of its water resources and is becoming a water scarce country.

Notwithstanding the volatile internal water situation, Pakistan has a history of water dispute with India, who usurped Pakistan’s rights over the use of Eastern Rivers immediately after the independence. Indus Basin Treaty provided some momentary respite to both the countries but in the long term it permanently deprived Pakistan of its right on the three Eastern Rivers. For Pakistan the situation has gone from bad to worse since India, in violation to the above-said Treaty, is constraining the waters of Pakistan’s Western Rivers by constructing dams / siphoning out waters from them. The country is hence confronted with multiple threats to its water security and needs to take immediate steps to meet the challenge in the long term

Significance and scope of the study

Water is vital for human survival. Water sustains life through such vital processes as respiration and photosynthesis. Without this important resource no livestock can be sustained nor vegetation be grown therefore it can be said that no food can be produced without water. Humans have changed this natural resource into a social resource by including it into almost every kind of activity making it absolutely essential for economic development, health, environmental sustainability and social welfare etc.

In view of above, there is a strong and growing need to manage the precious water resources more carefully and efficiently to ensure water security for all on a sustainable basis. This paper has analyzed the challenges to Pakistan’s water resources vis-à-vis the future demands with a view to proffering well-synthesized water management measures for sustaining the water security of the country. Due to constraints of ‘Word Count’, challenges to Pakistan’s water resources have been confined to the extent of inefficient water management and conservation practices and inadequacy of water storage facilities.

Literature Review

In the literature review, the research has relied upon “Pakistan Water Sector Strategy”. This is a study instituted by the Ministry of Water and Power, Government of Pakistan and Federal Flood Commission with a view to devising a road map for optimum utilization of water resources. The drought that began in 1999 and lasted for more than three years resulted in severe shortages of water for irrigation. To meet the challenges of growing demands of water, the Government of Pakistan developed an initiative known as Vision 2025.

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