The ever-growing water crisis in Pakistan

Written by The Frontier Post

Chief Minister Sindh, Syed Murad Ali Shah has emphasized the need for judicious distribution of water to all federating units so that the farmers would be able to get sufficient water for crops in a timely manner. The Chief Minister was of the view that although the water shortage is due to a shortfall in the rivers which at present reached 40 percent, however, the situation could be handled with the judicious distribution of water among the units. Murad Ali Shah assured the farmers that he would discuss the matter with the central government and also advised the farmers to avoid sowing paddy crops in the area to escape the worst impact of the current water shortage.

Pakistan has been facing an acute problem of water shortage since its inception due to a number of reasons including scarcity of water resources, non-judicial use of water, cultivation of high delta corps, climate change, recurrent droughts and floods, massive urbanization, poor agricultural infrastructure and absence of water storages and distribution mechanism, etc. Currently, the country is speedily running short of water because of ever-increasing water use, wastage of water resources, and insufficient water storage capacity in the country. Pakistan uses 95% of available water for agricultural purposes, while 60 percent of the population earns from agriculture and livestock, and over 80 percent of exports consist of agricultural products that need a regular water supply. Similarly, the country’s population is increasing at the rate of 2.3% while massive urbanization has further aggravated the already exhausted water management system in the country. Historically, Pakistan is a water deficit country and totally dependent on the Indus River System which accounts for Pakistan’s 95.8 percent of total renewable water resources.

The growing scarcity of water resources and consistent disruption in water supply has led to a conflict among the federating units, while the construction and distribution of water resources have become a political issue for the public as well as the politicians. Due to the politicization of the issue, Pakistan had never been able to construct a water dam/reservoir over the past five decades and also failed to establish a credible mechanism for distribution of the available water among the provinces. The government of Pakistan had constituted the Indus River System Authority (IRSA) for the effective monitoring, management, and distribution of water resources, however, the provinces located downstream of the system remained complainants regarding the volume of the share allocated to them. The IRSA had been distributing water among the provinces according to the interprovincial accord of 1992, however, the provincial governments in Sindh and Balochistan had been accusing each other as well as Punjab of using their share of water in the past.

Chief Minister Sindh has raised concerns regarding the provision of water to the farmers in Sindh and vowed to take up the case with the Central government, despite the fact that the Sindh government has representation in the water regulating body (IRSA) to protect genuine interests of the province at the forum. In fact, the politicization of administrative, technical, and legal issues had badly disturbed the pace of development and national unity in the past. Presently, PPP is an important ally in the coalition government in the Center and the Sindh government can easily address its grievances at the relevant forum amicably.

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The Frontier Post