An independent think-tank

A session on water crisis in Pakistan

The availability and development of water resources in Pakistan is gradually turning into a crisis and has reached at the level of inter-provincial conflict which needs to be resolved immediately. Besides water conveyance system losses the opposition to mega water storage projects is another critical factor adding to depletion of water resources. There is immense need of political consensus along with internal conflict resolution mechanisms to address the water crisis in Pakistan for making certain the future of country’s water security. This was stated by Dr. Shoaib Ahmad while addressing a session on “Water Crisis in Pakistan” held at Pak Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS) on 3 November 2009. Dr. Shoaib is a social scientist, and visiting faculty member at Department of Government and Public Policy, National Defence University, Islamabad and International Institute of Islamic Economics, International Islamic University, Islamabad. He underlined while presenting the statistics on water availability in Pakistan that there is 142 million acre feet of water flowing on annual basis in our rivers. Out of this, 104 million acre feet of water is diverted to different canals systems. At very first stage 38 million acre feet of water is lost from our river system. About 25% of the water diverted to canal systems is lost as “line losses” and only 78 million acre feet of water is left in hand. The potential of ground water extractions is 40 million acre feet. Collectively there are 118 million acre feet of water available in water courses’ heads. At the end of the day after all loses there is only 70 million acre feet of water available after a total of 51% losses.

If we control these water losses alone there will be a minimum shortage of water. Nonetheless there are six very important water projects available in Pakistan, including Gomal Zam Dam with 1.14 million acre feet capacity, Mirani Dam with 0.3 million acre feet capacity, rising up of Mangla Dam has 3.0 million acre feet capacity, Spartha Dam with 0.2 million acre feet capacity, Bhasha Dam with 5.70 million acre feet and Sehwan Barrage with 0.6 million acre feet capacities. Combine potential of these projects is 10.5 million acre feet of water.  While addressing the water related issues in Pakisatn he noted that that Kalabagh is used as “political tool” by some regimes in Pakistan despite the fact that this project has lot of worth for the future water potential of Pakistan. He added that water issue was suffering from lack of political will and consensus.

While discussing solutions to the problem he said that although the situation is very worst but there are some hopes. The most important thing which is required here is that political leadership has to play its role. There are various constitutional institutions in Pakistan which have to play their role. Constitutional conflict resolution mechanism can activate different mechanisms to manage this water issue. Parliament’s standing committee has to play its role to develop national consensus on the issue. Along with government to take drastic and strategic decision, it is responsibility of every single Pakistani to conserve water. In 1951 per capita available water was 5300 m³ which has now been reduced to 1000 m³.

While commenting on Indian interventions in Pakistan’s rivers, he said that Kashmir issue is basically related to water conflict. It is the presence of international laws and expected world pressure due to which India portrays it as an ideological issue otherwise it is an economic issue. Pakistan should highlight the economic and development aspect of the crisis to bring world pressure on India.