ISLAMABAD: Pakistan is facing a shift from water-stressed to water-scarce status due to factors such as population growth, industrial expansion, inefficient irrigation, unsustainable groundwater use, inadequate storage, low water productivity, poor efficiency, and contamination of water resources. This has led to both quantitative and qualitative water losses.

According to Economic Survey 2023-24, to tackle these challenges, the water sector’s long-term planning acknowledges these issues based on the National Water Policy. The plan adopts the Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) approach, aligning with the policy’s objectives.

The connection between water, food, climate, and energy security becomes more evident in the impending water crisis.

The comprehensive plan addresses this nexus, guided by equity, efficiency, affordability, participatory decision-making, environmental sustainability, and practicability in line with Vision 2025 and the National Water Policy in its Northern Areas.

Rainfall across the country varies significantly in quantity, timing, and spatial distribution. The mean annual precipitation ranges from under 100 mm in portions of the Lower Indus Plain to over 750 mm near the foothills of the Upper Indus Plain. The nation relies on the three western rivers of the Indus (Kabul, Jhelum, and Chenab).

Meanwhile, the three eastern tributaries – Ravi, Sutlej, and Beas – were allocated exclusively to India. Approximately 2.66 million acre-feet (MAF) of water flows from India to Pakistan through these eastern rivers, complemented by an additional 3.33 MAF of runoff generated within Pakistan’s catchments.

The Kabul River contributes 21 MAF to Pakistan’s total surface water. According to Indus River System Authority (IRSA) facts and figures (Year 2022), the Indus River System receives an average annual inflow of about 146 to 150 MAF, predominantly sourced from snow and glacial melting.

The current water availability at canal head works is about 97.51 MAF, with estimated annual losses of around 50 MAF. Pakistan extracts approximately 50 to 52 MAF from aquifers, surpassing the sustainable limit of safe yield (Wapda).

Regarding vulnerability to climate change, Pakistan ranks 5th in the Global Climate Risk Index 2023, based on weather-related events from 2000-2019.

Despite contributing less than 0.9 percent to total global emissions, the country demonstrated high vulnerability during the 2022 devastating floods, highlighting the urgent impact of climate change.

Water projects achieved remarkable milestones, setting a precedent for excellence and innovation in water resource management. The dedicated efforts yielded key accomplishments that have addressed critical challenges and paved the way for sustainable and resilient water systems.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2024

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M. Zahid Iftikhar Jun 12, 2024 12:18pm
We need dams to store rain water as glacial melt is going to shrink every year due to global warming. Had Kalabagh dam been built, we could have been a middle income country with manageable population
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