A recent UNDP report has pointed towards an issue that is often overlooked in Pakistan. The report has directed the attention to the elevating water scarcity in Pakistan. It highlighted the changing and threatening scenarios of the country and bought forward that Pakistan’s water profile has changed drastically from being a water rich country, to one experiencing water stress. Between 1990 and 2015, per capita water availability declined from 2,172 cubic metres per inhabitant, to 1,306 cubic metres per inhabitant. Pakistan extracts 74.3 percent of its freshwater annually, thereby exerting tremendous pressure on renewable water resources. Despite remarkable improvements in the proportion of the population using improved water sources and improved sanitation facilities, 27.2 million Pakistanis do not have access to safe water and 52.7 million do not have access to adequate sanitation facilities. The repercussions on health are even severe: an approximate 39,000 children under five die every year from diarrhoea caused by unsafe water and poor sanitation.
What brought the country to the point where it stands at the stake? This water scarcity has multiple reasons. First and obvious reason is the population growth. The authorities are not in a position to depict the kind of negligence that has been depicted in the past. Moreover urbanization, our irrigation system and industrial influx are to name a few that have been playing their role in water crises. The lack of attention to this issue that has been made worst due to climate change demands a better handling of the issue. Pakistan is in the list of the countries that face the extreme water shortage yet the storage capacity of water remains dwindling.
Recently, Pakistan witnessed an episode of minor water crises in summers. The country was not able to meet the agricultural requirements. The provinces stood at the verge of severe water scarcity but luckily the temperature rose and so as the water level in the rivers. But the there is no assurance for the next time. This change in the climate and the lack of storage availability isn’t a new phenomena, it isn’t something that the country can’t prepare for. What mechanism do we have if the water level again goes down and no glaciers melt down to rescue us?
It definitely isn’t about the resources. Pakistan is enriched with resources but it lacks the ability to manage these resources. Our inability to prepare a storage mechanism, managing our population, working on our agriculture system and coming up with workable policy has brought us to the point where we stand in the line with the deprived countries.