That water is a critical resource for Pakistan and for all countries in the world is a well-understood fact — no matter how grainy our knowledge of the structure of matter is. Lesser known, however, is the actual economic cost of the water that is dumped into the sea annually. Inadvertently or not, Pakistan loses $21 billion of water every year, according to The Indus River System Authority (Irsa). This precious resource could otherwise have been conserved and harvested for the good of the country. One of the better ways to do so is to build a dam as large as Mangla — not one but three to make up for the lack of water conservation systems in the country. Beyond that is the need for proper and equitable distribution of water to all provinces.
On Thursday, members of Irsa and the Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources (PCRWR) told the Senate Forum for Policy Research that the country’s water crunch is getting more severe by the day. Currently, Pakistan is facing a 36 per cent shortage in its water requirements.
Perhaps nothing illustrates this shortage better than our record-high water intensity rate which measures the amount of water, in cubic metres, used per unit of GDP. The country’s per capita annual water availability is 1,017 cubic metres — just slightly above the threshold of 1,000 cubic metres.
With three provinces out of four opposed to the construction of Kalabagh dam, the possibility of finding another solution is becoming more elusive. Irsa members are clearly in favour of building reservoirs like Kalabagh — which will take up to five years to complete — and its alternative, Akhoori. But, unfortunately, as was witnessed at the Senate Forum for Policy Research, there is little interest in consensual decision-making. The authorities have to act fast before water levels shrink further.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 3rd, 2017.
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