More than charity will be required
With only 30 days of average water storage capacity Pakistan in on the brink of a water crisis. What organizations like the IMF and UNDP have been saying for years was reiterated in an address to the nation by prime minister Imran Khan that the country will be facing “drought-like conditions” by 2025 if we don’t act now. The primary issue is the lack of dams to store water – of the 145 million acre feet of water the country receives during a year only around 13.7 million acre feet can be saved. CJP Saqib Nisar’s fund collection for dams has not been able to generate the sort of fervor required for mass donations. Imran Khan is no stranger to charity collection given the success of Shaukat Khanum Hospital; built and running smoothly on the largesse of both domestic and international donors. Perhaps him taking charge of this effort and asking overseas Pakistani’s for $1000 each has the desired effect. Apart from the experience Imran Khan’s assurance to safeguard the donated money carries weight due to his reputation. Even so, the construction of a dam is a huge undertaking requiring billions of dollars so a helping hand in the form of foreign funding will be necessary to plug the gap – not every overseas Pakistani will have a $1000 to spare.
Storage is only one aspect of the water crisis. Recurring heatwaves that claim lives are becoming more common every year in the country while the winters are getting shorter and less cold due to the undeniable effects of global warming. Coupled with worsening water shortage the combination will be lethal and claim many more lives in the coming years. Pakistan has the world’s fourth highest rate of water use with a significant amount being wasted. Awareness campaigns and financial disincentives to use water more judiciously are necessary to discourage wastage. Domestic (certain provinces opposed to construction of dams) and foreign politics (Indus Water Treaty) are important variables that need to be kept in mind as well. A holistic multipronged strategy is required to truly and effectively address this looming crisis.