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LAHORE: Contrary to popular perception, Pakistan is not running out of water, not just yet as the available freshwater has generally remained constant over the past decades.

This was revealed by the State of Pakistan’s Agriculture 2023 report recently launched by the Pakistan Business Council and the Pakistan Agricultural Coalition.

However, the report points out, Pakistan is creating little value from its water even compared to a cohort of countries with comparable levels of water availability, low GDP per capita, a high proportion of water used in agriculture, and the importance of agriculture in GDP.

“Pakistan is among the few countries where more than 90% of the freshwater used by the country is devoted to agriculture,” stated the report.

To put this in perspective, on average, the countries of the world have the following distribution of the freshwater they use: 70% in agriculture, 20% in industry, and 10% in municipal uses (drinking water, public uses in towns, etc). But Pakistan’s distribution is 93% in agriculture, 6% in industry, and 1% in municipal services.

Pakistan’s real water-related challenges when it comes to the agriculture sector are severe water wastage, the state and management of the irrigation system, unrestrained withdrawals of groundwater, deteriorating water quality, and the coming impact of climate change on Pakistan’s water resources.

“While available freshwater resources have remained stable, Pakistan’s water consumption has remained constant in proportion with withdrawals showing little improvement in water use efficiency,” stated the report.

The report suggested that to reduce the amount of water withdrawn for agriculture, improvements to the productivity of water must be addressed as water productivity is the amount of GDP created per drop of water.

“Pakistan’s current water productivity is the eighth lowest in the world at $ 1.38 per cubic meter of water withdrawn from the Indus River Basin and the Indu's aquifer,” mentioned the report.

According to the World Bank, Pakistan’s total water withdrawals are the fifth highest globally.

“The main source of low productivity stems from inefficiencies within the delivery system of water from the Indus Basin Irrigation System to the farm gate and from the on-farm application of that water to the crop root,” explained the report.

Only a fraction of the water that is diverted from the Indus River System reaches the crop as conveyance losses within the canal system account for an average of 25% losses to the watercourse outlet to the farm gate.

This means that of the 95 million acre-feet (MAF) of water diverted from the Indus River System 24 MAF is lost in canals through seepage and evapotranspiration. This leaves 71 MAF at the canal outlet (mogha) level.

“From there, an estimated 30% is lost in tertiary watercourses leading to farms, these are often unlined. This means that of the 71 MAFs available at canal outlets, another 21 MAFs are lost till the farm gate. But each farm has multiple fields within it which receive water for cultivation,” stated the report.

Farmers draw about the same amount of water from the Indus aquifer through tube wells. But field losses are in the range of 35 per cent, so only 65 MAF is available to farmers.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

Comments

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KhanRA Apr 02, 2023 03:47am
If this was funded by the current government, then I don’t believe it.
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KU Apr 02, 2023 12:24pm
Pakistan is running out of water, and that’s a fact! Ask the meteorological department about the last 5-year rain and snow data, that ensure replenishment of rivers and groundwater, and you will get the facts right. The council's explanations are lies, mostly based on feedback from a few court jesters working for these organizations. The couch policy managers have a scant idea that there are more than half a dozen agriculture regions across Pakistan, with their unique irrigation requirements. Many farmers are experiencing falling water levels in these regions, and digging deep to ensure irrigation for their crops. Water wastage can be controlled if solar-powered drip and sprinkler irrigation is employed, but since farmers don’t have access to this technology, and it’s expensive, this will be a distant dream. The government has already wasted billions on lining water channels to stop water wastage, it was a useless exercise only benefitting you-know-who.
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