“Water and sustainable development” the theme of World Water Day, March 22, 2015 pinpoints once again the centrality water holds for every department of our lives, be it economy, agriculture, health, urbanisation, or everyday living.
The alarm bells are already ringing in our part of the world, too. The Indus River System Authority has suggested the government should divert all Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) spending to building water reservoirs to overcome the looming water crisis. Since Pakistan economy’s mainstay is agriculture, availability of the required amount of water for agricultural as well as industrial purposes is essential.
The figures are not reassuring. Pakistan has a total of 210 million acre feet (MAF) water of which 70 MAF is underground and only the remaining 140 MAF is available. Experts say the country is facing a shortage of 40 MAF, which may rise drastically over the years. The per capita water availability, which was 5,600 cubic meters at the time of the creation of Pakistan, has come down to around 1,000 cubic metres at the moment.
Some estimates suggest that Pakistan’s water availability in 2025 will be 104 million acre feet (MAF), while the requirement (for drinking water) would be 135 MAF; so there will be a shortfall of 31 MAF. Pakistan’s current water availability is 1090 m3 per capita (UNDP) as compared to 1700 m3 in 1992.
In this scenario, the government would do well to pay heed to the advice and not sweep it under the carpet.