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EDITORIAL: Projections for major crops in kharif (April-October) show that the country will have to adjust to the effects of climate change very quickly. Once again, higher than normal temperatures and lower than average snowfall are threatening the outlook for most crops this season.

But that’s not all. Our own institutions always seem ready to enable most natural calamities with incompetence and inefficiencies of their own. In this case, unusual operational constraints at the two major water reservoirs – Tarbela and Mangla – are also playing a part. It turns out that Wapda (Water and Power Development Authority) is unable to clarify just when major outlets at Tarbela dam (three tunnels and a low-level outlet) will be available for water discharge.

That is still not all.

The situation has been further aggravated by the sudden freeze on construction activities following the terrorist attack on Chinese workers. And Wapda can do no better than repeat the line “keep filling the reservoir”, which could mean water shortage increasing by another 5-7 percent, to the range of 35-40 percent as the outflow capacity remains compromised even if the dam has enough stored water, according to news reports. Now an IAC (IRSA Advisory Committee)-constituted committee comprising members from Sindh and Punjab, along with their engineers, will physically review and monitor the sites and furnish the report “to resolve the operational constraints”.

Yet there’s another factor to consider as well. Winter snowfall in the catchments of Indus and Jhelum was recorded at 34.8 inches against the normal of 50.5 inches, a drop of 31 percent. But since PMD (Pakistan Meteorological Department) also forecasts higher than normal temperatures in the kharif season, it could lead to earlier melting of lower-than-normal snow deposits, which in turn would lower water availability for irrigation in later months. And, most likely, authorities will still be trying to wrap their heads around this phenomenon when they will be confronted with monsoon rains and their own fallout.

The biggest and most important takeaway from all this is that the state is still not prepared to deal with the effects of climate change. We have let the whole world know that it is unfair to expect countries like Pakistan – which have minimal carbon footprint yet bear the worst of the climate change burden – to handle these things on their own. We have also waited for the international community to help us with more solid aid than mere rhetoric. But since neither approach has got us anywhere, we need to do the one thing we have not turned our attention to so far. And that is to posture according to our new reality.

Already, there is concern that water shortage in kharif might compromise the cotton crop. Should that happen, the effects will go far beyond agriculture or water issues and eat into manufacturing, exports, jobs and GDP as well. This is a very serious inflexion point; when the country truly turns from a once water abundant one to a very water scarce one. And since the climate problem is not going to go away, nor get any better, it’s best if we reorient the way we approach this issue.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2024

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KU Apr 08, 2024 08:59am
The recent UN climate report is frightening. High cost of production, disinterest in adopting new techniques and absence of reservoirs or dams, very troubling for population survival.
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