Back in 2016, a report by Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources (PCRWR) warned that the country will approach absolute water scarcity by 2025.The report said that the country touched the ‘water stress line’ in 1990 and crossed the ‘water scarcity line’ in 2005, predicting that If this situation continues, then chances are high the country will face acute water shortage or drought-like situation in the near future. If the present situation continues, it will approach the absolute “water-scarcity line” by 2025. In other words, Pakistan will run dry and no one of its 207 million population will be immune from the disaster. The gap between water availability and demand is widening. In 2004, it was 11 per cent. By 2025, that number will go up to 35 per cent, which is worrying for a country that is considered to have the most water-intensive economy in the world.
The main reasons for depleting water resources are: (i) population growth, (ii) inadequate storage facilities (iii) silting up the existing reservoirs due to lack of watershed management activities (iv) low system efficiency, as more than 60 per cent of the water is lost during conveyance and application in the field (v) groundwater depletion and (vi) unutilised potential of hill torrents. Another issue is the quality of the surface and groundwater that has a direct impact on the health and well-being of the people.
Interestingly, Pakistan is dependent on a single source for water the Indus Basin, where water flows downstream from India to Pakistan. More than 90 per cent of the country’s drinking water comes from groundwater, which is being recharged by the extensive irrigation network of the Indus Basin. A water shortfall of over 30 per cent in 2025 means further storage requirements of the order of 22 million acre-feet (MAF) i.e. 3-4 large dams. Therefore, there is dire need to develop new storage reservoirs.
Pakistan will need to form both long and short term policies regarding its water sector and work on emergency footing to improve and add to the water infrastructure in the country. Pakistan needs to take quick actions to deal with the very serious issue of growing water scarcity in the country. General elections are around the corner and politicians are out their convincing people to vote for them, it is the best time to realize the politicians to include the tackling growing water issue in their manifestos.