Water Crisis In Pakistan

Pakistan is the third most affected country by an acute water shortage, as ranked in an IMF study. Global warming and climate change have affected the monsoon season and annual rainfall received. The annual water available has reduced from 1,500 cubic meters per capita in 2009 to only 1,017 cubic meters. That’s barely above the minimum requirement of a thousand. If the same trend remains, it will reach absolute scarcity levels of water, with a shortage of 31 million acre-feet (MAF), and face a drought by as early as 2025. That’s just over five years. An agriculture-based economy will face an irreversible situation of water depletion. 

At risk is Pakistan’s 20% of GDP, 75% of total exports revenue, and 42% of the total labor force, which the sector contributes directly. Add issues of sanitation, public health, and industrial water supply, and you get why water shortage is a pressing challenge that requires immediate rectification. In line with successful global models of water management, multiple ways can be adopted to tackle the issue. These include conservation, desalination, recycling, innovation, and governance. Considering the current situation, Pakistan has space to work in all these areas. The much-politicized debate about the construction of new dams is still ongoing, with some progress on Diamer-Bhasha. The two major dams, Tarbela and Mangla, have gathered enormous silt deposits since construction and lost enough storage capacity to be hitting a dead level fast. Of the total 145 MAF that flows annually through Pakistan, up to only 14 MAF can now be stored by the two reservoirs. That’s how dangerously low their current capacity is. 

Construction of dams is essential but it is a medium to long-term policy and requires strategic, inclusive, and bold decisions to be made in the national interest. However, for immediate results, more has to be done on a short-term policy front. For example, public awareness has to be created about the matter and domestic level sensitization is developed. Small, basic steps such as adopting a minimal approach towards the use of water can save gallons per day. 

That’s where Pakistan’s entrepreneurs have a major role to play. Cost-effective, localized smart solutions need to be made available for use at the domestic level, and by the industrial and agriculture sectors. For example, domestic solutions such as smart monitoring adopted by European countries, including the UK, can keep water usage and leaks 

in check. Technology-based filtration at affordable prices can address water-borne diseases and contribute towards public health; startups such as Pak Vitae and Xyla Water are working on scalable models to provide safe drinking water to the poor. 

About 95% of Pakistan’s total freshwater is utilized for irrigation in the agriculture sector. Yet, the production scale per acre is lower than that of India and China in the region. Therefore, innovative entrepreneurial solutions such as smart irrigation methods, including micro-irrigation that utilizes drip technology will not only increase cultivation but reduce water wastage. 

Taking into consideration the intensity of the challenge and urgency of the matter, key integral steps have to be taken without delay. Pakistan’s National Water Policy was approved in 2018 after much deliberation. A bigger question and concern still remains of its execution and implementation especially with respect to provincial coordination. 

As the government takes policy measures for an inclusive strategy, the civil society needs to step up as sensitization agents and the people need to adopt basic lifestyle changes. We need to do this for the next generation. 

About 95% of Pakistan’s total freshwater is utilized for irrigation in the agriculture sector. Yet, the production scale per acre is lower than that of India and China in the region. Therefore, innovative entrepreneurial solutions such as smart irrigation methods, including micro-irrigation that utilizes drip technology will not only increase cultivation but reduce water wastage.