Vision 2025, From Pakistan to Desert-istan

Muhammad Imran

It is going to be a zero-water day in early 2019 if the water crisis continues; which means that everyone will be allowed to use only 25 liters of water daily, less than what we use in a five minutes shower.
Until then, the government has decided to ban using tap water for washing cars, gardening, or filling pools. Now every resident will be allowed to use only 50 liters of water per day. Anyone using more than the prescribed limit will face monetary penalties depending on the excess of usage.
Household that use up to 6‚000 liters of water a month will see their water bill raising by Rs 1,000; an amount that can be used to buy a 20 kg flour or 10 kg rice bag.
Surprised? I am not talking about Islamabad, Karachi, or Lahore. It’s the current situation of water scarcity in Cape town; an affluent and beautiful metropolis of South Africa. Cape town is a city with a population of 4 million. The city has faced one of the history worst droughts for three years from 2014 to 2016.  According to Piotr Wolski, a researcher with the University of Cape Town’s Climate System Analysis Group this kind of drought occurs once in 311 years.
The city has recently avoided a zero day in April 2018, but with the prevalent conditions and drought winter the zero day is forecasted in early 2019.
Despite the fact that Cape town has six major reservoirs, which hold up to 230 billion gallons of water, in previous three years they have reached to a situation where sooner water will be distributed like a priceless commodity on ration card under the security of armed men. It is not the present situation of our country, however, it could be a possibility based on the UNDP report that had named Pakistan among the list of countries getting dryer in 2025.
According to the United Nations, around 1.2 billion people, or almost one-fifth of the world’s population, live in areas of physical scarcity, and 500 million people will eventually be similarly situated. It further states that, by 2025, 1.8 billion people will be living in countries or regions with absolute water shortage, and two-thirds of the world’s inhabitants could be living with water supply issues. Pakistan could be one of them if we do not take the necessary measures to save water– both in our individual capacity as well as on the governmental level. The average rainfall in Pakistan is measured to be around 255 millimetres annually.
Pakistan receives 145 million-acre feet of water every year. Out of which, unfortunately, only 14m acre feet is preserved and the rest go in vain, the monetary value of which amounts to 25 billion.
It is high time for Pakistan to realize the importance of building reservoirs and dams with a sense of urgency. Until now, our performance in this regard is a total dismay. According to the international commission on dams, Pakistan so far has built only 150 dams, while our neighbouring countries like India and China has built 3,200 and 87,000 dams respectively. Pakistan hasn’t developed any voluminous water storage infrastructure aside from Mangla and Tarbela dam. Consequently, water storage capacity has receded to less than 30 days against the minimum requirement of 120 days. In consideration to the negligible numbers of reservoirs we have, one shouldn’t be mistaken in anticipating a “zero-day” sooner than 2025, if a drought of few months will hit us. The groundwater level is consistently on a decline and a few years from now we will be compelled to dig 100 feet deeper to get water.
In 1951 the per capita water availability in Pakistan was 5,260 cubic meter that went down to 940 cubic meters in 2015. Changing climate conditions around the world are prevalent. Somewhere it brings massive rainfall. For instance, according to the data available on the Centre for Climate and Energy Solution United States, in August 2017, Hurricane Harvey dumped 48 inches of rain on Houston, breaking the US record for most rainfall from a single event. In September 2013, Boulder, Colorado, received almost a year’s worth of rainfall (17 inches) in four days. On the other hand, with the increasing temperature in countries like Chad rainfall is decreasing and it had resulted in the disappearance of the country’s largest lake, Lake Chad, over the past 50 years by Ninety percent. We have recently witnessed the Kareez (underground water system) in Baluchistan getting dry. One might wonder, if the world has 71 percent of area submerged in water, then why it is not enough for the rest of 29 per cent populated with humans?
There is enough freshwater on the planet for seven billion people, but it is unevenly distributed and a big part of it is misused, polluted, and ill-managed. It is not only the duty of the government, but it’s a civic responsibility of every citizen to ensure the proper usage of water to avoid wastage. With the growing danger of water scarcity, it is necessary for us to change our water usage habits. For instance, washing a car with running tap approximately spends 100 litres of water, which is double of what currently allowed to use in Cape town per person. On the contrary, this could be done easily with a bucket using a cloth allowing us to save almost 90 litres per car.
Taking a shower approximately consumes 25 to 50 litres, but, with a bucket usage it could be reduced to 15 litres. Doing small tasks like toothpaste and shove without running tap can also save us significant amount of water.
It is the need of the hour to combat the challenge of water shortage and ponder over the issue because water is one of the most vital element on earth, the importance of which cannot be denied at any stage of life, as rightly said by the former General Secretary of United Nation, Mr. Ban Ki Moon “Water is not only for life, but water is life”.

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