Water scarcity in Pakistan – A bigger threat than terrorism

A UNDP report says that Pakistani authorities are negligent about an impending water crisis that is posing a serious threat to the country’s stability. Experts say the South Asian country is likely to dry up by 2025.

Deutsche Wellehttps://www.dw.com/en/water-scarcity-in-pakistan-a-bigger-threat-than-terrorism/a-37444480

The major threat that Pakistan faces today is not Islamist terrorism but water scarcity. While the former makes headlines all over the world, the latter is an issue that is hardly discussed in the national and international media or by policymakers. But a recent UNDP draft report on the water crisis in Pakistan sheds light on a serious, albeit much-neglected, conflict the South Asian country is grappling with.

While discussing the UNDP report “Development Advocate Pakistan,” Shamsul Mulk, former chairman of the Water and Power Development Authority, said that water policy is simply non-existent in Pakistan. Policymakers act like “absentee landlords” of water, he added.

“Because of this absentee landlordism, water has become the property of the landlords and the poor are deprived of their share,” Mulk said.

Pakistan hasn’t built new dams since the 1960s, say experts

The draft report on water resources was prepared at the request of the ministry of water and power. Mulk said, however, the cabinet ministers never reviewed it.

Last year, the Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources (PCRWR) warned that the country may run dry by 2025 if the authorities didn’t take immediate action. It said the majority-Muslim country touched the “water stress line” in 1990 and crossed the “water scarcity line” in 2005.

If this situation persists, Pakistan is likely to face an acute water shortage or a drought-like situation in the near future, predicted the PCRWR, which is affiliated with the South Asian country’s Ministry of Science and Technology.

Expert Irfan Choudhry says the authorities lack the political will to tackle the problem.

“There are no proper water storage facilities in the country. Pakistan hasn’t built new dams since the 1960s. What we see is political bickering over the issue. The authorities need to act now. We can store water for only 30 days, and it is worrisome,” Choudhry told DW.

Climate change and poor management

Pakistan has the world’s fourth highest rate of water use. Its water intensity rate – the amount of water, in cubic meters, used per unit of GDP – is the world’s highest. This suggests that no country’s economy is more water-intensive than Pakistan’s.

According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Pakistan is already the third most water-stressed country in the world. Its per capita annual water availability is 1,017 cubic meters – perilously close to the scarcity threshold of 1,000 cubic meters. Back in 2009, Pakistan’s water availability was about 1,500 cubic meters.

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Author: Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.