Water woes

Govt must take stock of situation

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March 22 is celebrated as World Water Day every year. This practice continues since 1993. The day is used to highlight water quality and scarcity related issues all around the world. It has been observed that increasing world population and increased human activity have caused the water depletion. The water that remains available is increasingly getting polluted.

By 2030 most countries in the world shall face water scarcity. Pakistan being an agricultural country is dependent upon water. Sadly since its creation in 1947 the per capita water quantity has dramatically gone down. Most of its agriculture is dependent upon seasonal rains and glacial and underground water. With over 1.2 million tube wells across the country the water level has significantly gone down. Due to climate change, glaciers in the north are fast melting which cause floods as well as droughts causing unprecedented losses to agriculture.

Pakistan has not paid due attention to building dams. In its 72 years history only two major dams could be built. As major dams are difficult to find finance for and there are legitimate concerns of lower riparian, small dams should have been our top priority but that too did not catch the fancy of our policy makers. Last year there was a robust campaign for crowd funding dams’ construction and people generously donated towards it but no one is aware of the fate of that money.

Pakistan is bound to be among the most water scare countries in a few years and need of the hour is to plan ahead, allocate sufficient funds to build small reservoirs, harvest and conserve water, introduce drip irrigation and other water saving technologies, introduce crops varieties that can survive harsh climate and droughts.

Water quality is another aspect that has been neglected for long. Urban areas in particular suffer from lack of safe drinking water. Increasingly in the rural areas too, with the introduction of pit toilets, water quality has deteriorated. According to one estimate 85 per cent of the population does not get safe drinking water. This is alarming to say the least. In urban areas the water supply infrastructure is dated and the major cause of the water contamination. Without exception water lines are laid close to sewage lines and hence for lack of repair contents from one get mixed with the other. Resultantly it is now almost a certainty that tap water is completely unsafe for consumption. Taking advantage of the situation bottled water industry has jumped into the market in a massive way. Although Pakistan Council for Research on Water Resources keeps a tab on the water companies yet many have been able operate under the radar and keep providing people with substandard drinking water. There has also been no check on pricing mechanism. Government besides taking care of the bigger picture of water availability should pay attention to the provision of safe water to consumers at an affordable price.