High cost of water crisis

For the first time in the history of Pakistan the water level at Tarbella dam reservoir has touched dead level in July. The water level has dropped to 1386 feet. Inflow into the dam storage is 115000 cusecs and outflow is 95000 cusecs. The water level in Mangla dam is 1122 feet and dead level is 1050 feet. The live storage level is 1242 feet and the dam reservoir has still storage of 89000 cusecs for usage.

In Tarbella dam, till Saturday evening there was some amount of water left which finished by night. According to spokesperson of Indus River System Authority (IRSA), the current hydro storage level clearly reflects that water situation in Pakistan is getting critical even during the rainy season. The overall storage in the country last year in July was 7million acres feet but this year it stands at 0.80 to one million acres feet. However, the coming spell of monsoon will bring some improvement.

The prevailing water crisis will confront Pakistan’s agriculture economy with tougher challenges that will take a heavy toll on the country’s output. The crisis which had earlier caused farmers to largely miss cotton seeds’ sowing target is now affecting rice plantation delaying it in Sindh by one to two months.

Rice is a summer crop and warmer temperatures are good for its growth. However, the delay in plantation may push its sowing to October at a time when lower temperature would affect the output. Rice (paddy) is planted on 1.8 million acres to 2.3 million acres of land in Sindh province. The water storage in Kotri Barrage used to be 50000 cusecs but this year it is 3000 to 40000 cusecs, rendering the farmers unable to achieve the rice plantation target.

The future is completely dependent on quantum and timing of rains. If it rains in time then it will be good for rice crop otherwise it could play havoc if it rains heavily and untimely. A natural resource management associate estimated 30-40 percent lower production this season due to delayed plantation. The threat to rice production comes after farmers have already missed cotton sowing targets by around 35 percent in Sindh due to water shortages. Water crisis may further hamper economic growth in 2018-19. It may slow down the agriculture growth the share of which still stands around one fifth in the gross domestic product (GDP).

As per the prediction of international organizations, Pakistan is to face major water crisis by 2025. To avert the likely grim scenario of water starved nation, the elected governments of both PPP and PML-N did nothing to start construction of big storage dams over the past 10 years. The so called five pages document of PML-N government, “vision 2025”did not envisage a clear cut time bound plan for augmenting and conserving water resources. Suffering from political myopia, PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari criticized the Chief Justice of Pakistan initiative of building big dams on fast track basis. This stance of PPP leadership either reflects the attitude of selfishness towards national interest or shallowness of their mental level on the precarious water situation of the country. The opposition to the construction of Kalabagh dam by ANP and PPP leadership is the manifestation of parochial thinking.

Normally, from May to July the flow of water increases due to melting of crystalised snow in catchment areas. The cutting of forests over the past 32 years has intensified the impact of global warming. It is because of this factor that the snow that fell in winter did not crystallize to increase the water flows in rivers. Had reforestation been done in catchment areas and cutting of forests had been regulated the water shortages would have been minimal. Reforestation in catchment areas and significant increase in area under forests will mitigate the impact of climate change on water resources. Will the political leadership listen to it is a million dollars question?


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