WATER SECURITY: A BROAD ANALYSIS/ FORECAST OF ITS IMPLICATIONS FOR PAKISTAN
Since the latter half of the twentieth century, there has been an exponential rise in the withdrawal and consumption of water owing to phenomenal increase in world population especially in the urban areas, rising living standards, energy production, industrial growth and expansion of agricultural land. At the same time, global warming involving changes in climate and global hydrological cycle coupled with numerous other factors are fast turning the freshwater resources of the world into a fast depleting resource. Water security is a major concern worldwide. In times to come sharing of freshwaters is being prophesied to become a source of conflict. The issue can even spoil the domestic scene of the nations, giving rise to water based conflicts within their communities. In Asia, where most of the irrigated lands of the world are located, the situation is more precarious due to sharing of the rivers between the nations.
Statement of the Problem
In Pakistan, water plays a significant role in its economic development through irrigation, which is the mainstay of agricultural production, power generation and food security. As the country enters the 21st century, it is facing an enhanced demand for water to sustain its burgeoning population that is expected to reach 221 million by the year 2025.
Ironically, poor management of existing water resources, water-sharing issues between its own provinces and with India, and increasing water demand have resulted into Pakistan facing an existing shortfall of 9 million acre feet (MAF), which is projected to rise to 25 MAF by 2020. Uneven rainfall and Pakistan’s reliance on a single river system, the most exploited in South Asia, leaves little flexibility to mobilize more water than it uses. Excessive mining for tube wells is also depleting the underground water resource, of which 36% is highly saline and the percentage is on the rise. Pakistan is hence approaching the utilization limits of its water resources and is becoming a water scarce country.
Notwithstanding the volatile internal water situation, Pakistan has a history of water dispute with India, who usurped Pakistan’s rights over the use of Eastern Rivers immediately after the independence. Indus Basin Treaty provided some momentary respite to both the countries but in the long term it permanently deprived Pakistan of its right on the three Eastern Rivers. For Pakistan the situation has gone from bad to worse since India, in violation to the above-said Treaty, is constraining the waters of Pakistan’s Western Rivers by constructing dams / siphoning out waters from them. The country is hence confronted with multiple threats to its water security and needs to take immediate steps to meet the challenge in the long term.