For the love of Blue Gold | Pakistan Today

For the love of Blue Gold

  • Water is running short, so something must be done

You hear the word water and you think of life, how every living being needs water for their survival, but do you ever think of the people who don’t have access to clean water?

The paramountcy of water as blue gold is evident by its massive privatization around the globe. The Washington consensus, Reaganomics and other neoliberal policies didn’t pardon even water and have detracted the focus of the world leaders from water security and sustainability. If it continues like this then the situation will get worse, and as of now at least 2 billion people across the globe use a drinking water source contaminated with faeces. Moreover, increasing water depletion from misuse, overuse, and mismanagement adds insult to injury. Not only developing countries but developed countries are also facing declining water availability due to multifarious factors. Water and security nexus is complicated under institutional inadequacies, a monochromatic supply-side vision, and a lack of substantive public participation in defining and solving problems. However, I believe there is hope. The adoption of a Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) on water by the United Nations was a major success. It is an unequivocal acknowledgement that water is a core issue worldwide.

Amidst many others, Pakistan has also consistently failed to address its water security issues. The national water security index has ranked its water security as hazardous. Being an agrarian economy, water shortages may well pose the greatest future threat to Pakistan. If we keep using water, not caring about its importance, then Pakistan is bound to face massive droughts. To historicize, the pre-partition water supply, the canal irrigation system, was laid during British colonial rule. They built thousands of miles of canals between 1885 and 1947 in an arid landscape. Other resources were ground water and rain water. After partition, India had halted water from Sutlej and Beas which caused great loss to Pakistan. These disruptions led to an agreement called the Indus Water Treaty (IWT) championed by World Bank. The main purpose of the IWT is to preempt any water wars and to even distribution of water. The agreement divides the Indus River system into the Western Rivers composed of the main stem of the Indus, the Jhelum, and the Chenab, which were assigned to Pakistan— and the Eastern Rivers— the Ravi, the Beas, and the Sutlej, which were assigned to India.

Taking the UN’s warnings seriously, the state should now focus to curb this threat as the Constitution of Pakistan establishes the access to affordable and safe drinking water as a fundamental human right of all the citizens, and thus considers water as a highly strategic resource. Pakistan’s current governance and priorities may be one of the biggest factors preventing effective water management. Imran Khan has recommended the nation to watch Diriliş: Ertuğrul so that It may know how the historic wars had been fought. However, I recommend you all to watch a documentary named “Blue Gold: World Water Wars” that examines the environmental and political implications of the decrease in water supply on the planet, and postulates that how the wars of the future will be waged on water

These resources are not sufficient for the demand of the increasing population. The United Nations (UN) estimates that water demand in Pakistan is growing at an annual rate of 10 percent, and this demand is projected to rise to 274 million acre feet (MAF) by 2025. Total water availability by 2025 is not likely to change from the current 191 MAF. Per capita water storage capacity available in Pakistan is 121 cubic meters per person, which makes the storage capacity of water for a mere 30 days. We can only store 14 MAF. These increasing threats are displacing the most vulnerable communities, leaving them in even worse social and economic conditions. In addition, the main source of drinking water in Pakistan comes from groundwater which is also depleting a meter every year mainly due to groundwater extraction for drinking and agriculture purposes. According to WaterAid, Pakistan has the fourth largest groundwater aquifer- covering an area of 1,137,819 km, from which, 60 per cent for agriculture, 90 per cent for drinking and 100 per cent for industry is being extracted. The quality of ground water is also becoming hazardous.

The supply-demand deficit does not bother Pakistan at all and It continues to waste 30 MAF water per annum. If managed properly, the water that is being wasted can be used to quench the thirst of the masses while revolutionizing the agricultural and industrial sectors. Consequently, we can save our groundwater from depleting. Floodwater is being wasted massively because we have very few dams. The major threat has become a non-issue and action is limited to ground-breaking ceremonies culminating in photo-ops with massive media coverage. Political hurdles, mistrust among provinces, are also the reasons of the detraction. Apart from climatic actions, infrastructure development like dams, and other economic issues, policymakers also need to focus on social issues like over-population. The national action plan for judicious use of water should be formulated. Efficient policies, like the National Water Policy (NWP) approved by former PML(N) Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, might save us from the coming water crisis. This policy pledges to take steps to control the future water crisis. The policy includes effective and efficient water usage, even allocation, environmental integrity, trans-boundary water sharing, irrigated and rain-fed agriculture, drinking water and sanitation, hydropower and groundwater, among other key areas of water management.

Taking the UN’s warnings seriously, the state should now focus to curb this threat as the Constitution of Pakistan establishes the access to affordable and safe drinking water as a fundamental human right of all the citizens, and thus considers water as a highly strategic resource. Pakistan’s current governance and priorities may be one of the biggest factors preventing effective water management. Imran Khan has recommended the nation to watch Diriliş: Ertuğrul so that It may know how the historic wars had been fought. However, I recommend you all to watch a documentary named “Blue Gold: World Water Wars” that examines the environmental and political implications of the decrease in water supply on the planet, and postulates that how the wars of the future will be waged on water.

Ihsaan Afzal Khan

The writer is a business executive with exposure in health, education, power distribution and manufacturing.



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