Pakistan facing water crisis due to poor management


by Farooq Ganderbali
Pakistan is facing a water crisis due to poor management and anticipated reduction in intake through the nine trans-border rivers from Afghanistan and in the Indus river from China. Pakistan’s allegation that India is trying to usurp its share of water by constructing hydel power plants on the western rivers is not based on facts.
Water is becoming an existential issue for Pakistan. The country is facing a grim situation regarding its fast-depleting fresh water resources. Pakistan has been attributing its problems of water scarcity to Indian action of constructing hydel projects on the western rivers. In Pakistan’s perception, the construction of dams by India could lower the quantity of water in these rivers.
However, their water-related problems need to be attributed to Pakistan having drawn limited benefit of India’s benevolence, despite the fact that it has been receiving more than its authorised share. Projects being undertaken by India are in tune with the provisions of the treaty. In 1950, the water available per capita annually was 5,500 cubic metres when the population of the erstwhile West Pakistan was 33 million; at present, it is down to 850 cubic metres annually, while the population has increased to 210 million. The overall quantity of water flowing in the western rivers to Pakistan remains approximately the same. As per a recent report, Pakistan is receiving about 154 MAF of water annually against an authorisation of 136 MAF.
Pakistan’s attempts over the years to annex Kashmir can be seen in the context of attempts to ensure water security. Despite India’s generosity in the sharing of the Indus river waters, Pakistan has consistently adopted an obstructionist strategy since 1977, raising issues regarding run-of-river projects under construction on the western rivers by India.
Such an attitude has not only stressed the treaty itself, but also has had a considerable negative impact on the economic progress of Jammu and Kashmir. The state, even though being upper riparian, exploits merely one-seventh of its hydel power potential. India, at present, irrigates 0.8 million acres area against the limitation imposed on the extent of area to be irrigated (1.32 million acres) with the waters of the western rivers. The annual energy loss suffered by Jammu and Kashmir is 60,000 million units; evaluated at the rate of Rs 2 per unit, it is approximately Rs 12,000 crore. These restrictions have, therefore, imposed a loss in terms of development of industry, power and agriculture equal to around Rs 40,000 crore annually.
The World Economic Forum rates the water crisis as the biggest risk in Pakistan, with terrorist attacks third on the list. A recent report of the World Bank puts into perspective the massive wastage of water in Pakistan. Water worth $25 billion flows into the sea annually. As per the report, agriculture, which consumes more than 80 per cent of water, contributes less than 5 per cent of the GDP.