Water scarcity threatens economic growth: traders

Staff Report
Islamabad
Islamabad Chamber of Small Traders (ICST) on Sunday said that the water crisis has developed into a drought like condition and has become a serious threat to the economy.
Dams are at dead level, there is almost no water in the rivers and the availability is hardly enough for human consumption. There is no water for agriculture, industries and livestock which is unfolding a disaster, therefore, the government should take urgent steps, said Patron Islamabad Chamber of Small Traders, Shahid Butt.
He further said that majority of the population is dependent on agriculture while the water shortage has become a serious threat to Kharif crop which plays an important role in exports.
Butt added that crops of sugarcane, cotton and rice are under serious threat which will also hit the standard of living of tens of millions in the farming community adding that the signs of crisis like low rainfall and less snowfall appeared a few months ago but the politicians in the government and opposition remained busy in petty matters which have resulted in the crisis.
Currently, the country’s entire water supplies are only enough to meet human consumption demand leaving crops, orchards and fodder without sufficient water, something that has never happened before in the history of the country.
Shortages are over 60 per cent because of empty reservoirs and abnormally low river flows but we had the luxury to waste around 10.5 million acre feet to the sea last Kharif crop, he noted.
The business leader said that the country managed to save even one-third of the wasted water it would have been in much more comfortable position.
Water scarcity is hurting agriculture which is the backbone of the economy providing jobs to a bulk of the workforce while and majority of the exports are also linked to this sector which calls for urgent measures.
Efforts should be increased to construct water reservoirs, improve existing facilities, reduce the irrational use of water and generate awareness in the masses about it.
Pakistan ranks third amongst countries facing water shortages due to hostile policies of a neighbouring country, poor distribution, and the excessive use of water without any mechanism to save it.
If the situation persists, there will be no or very little clean water available in Pakistan by 2025 transforming our country into a desert.
Around 14 billion gallons of water is dumped into the sea globally and annually around 1.8 million people die from the consumption of polluted water. Moreover, as many as 5,000 children die of diseases after consuming impure drinking water. In Pakistan, clean drinking water is only available to 30 per cent of the entire population.
The water crisis is growing worse and has serious consequences for the future. The problem was noted by International Monetary Fund a couple of years back and Pakistan was even advised to employ water management techniques to solve this issue.
The root cause of this disaster is not the shortage of this natural resource but the poor water policy, rapid urbanisation, corruption and mismanagement.
The problem is more pronounced in the cities where the access to clean water to its residents have declined from 97 per cent to 94 per cent over the period of last three decades, even though the overall access to clean water has increased from 86 per cent to 91 per cent, majority of this happening in the rural areas.
This is mainly a consequence of a politically instable management in the country and the growing level of mismanagement and corruption amongst the authorities, which allows the drinking water to be contaminated with sewage and industrial waste.
Furthermore, the quality of the ground water is rapidly being contaminated with heavy metals like copper and nickel, which is causing the spread of disease such as hepatitis in the major cities. This is a disaster waiting to happen and if triggered fully will send the country into even greater political crises.

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