Water has always been the prerequisite and source of life. Due to the increase in population, the nature of water requirements has shifted to become multidimensional and is not basic anymore. Since Pakistan’s formation India has been locked in a pattern of challenging its traditional and non-traditional security. India has been waging an aggressive water war on Pakistan to stop the flow of water on various occasions and of late under the current government, has even threatened to abrogate the Indus Waters Treaty unilaterally. In the same vein, Pakistan has raised serious concerns over the projects on the western rivers that are in violation of the Indus Waters Treaty such as the Kishanganga Dam, Ratle project, Pakal Dul Dam and Lower Kalnal hydropower projects on the Chenab River, among many other such cases in the past, as these reservoirs can be used to create artificial water shortage or flooding in Pakistan. However, this Indian intransigence has continued unabated. Its actions are in violation of the conditions of the Treaty which doesn’t allow India to use the waters of the western rivers in non-consumptive ways that deplete the water level downstream or change the course of the rivers. India’s antagonistic behavior isn’t limited to its agenda to use and divert Pakistan’s share of water on the western rivers, it also tries to exert its influence through different mediums. Since the Government of Pakistan announced construction of Diamer-Bhasha Dam, efforts are being made to directly and indirectly sabotage the project which is clearly indicated by overt criticism and covert opposition from the eastern neighbour.
Pakistan is facing serious shortage of water. An acute shortage of drinking and irrigation water is expected in Pakistan by the year 2025 and if the water resources aren’t managed, there is probability of a drought-like situation by 2040 which will turn fertile lands into deserts. Being a lower riparian country, it is important for Pakistan to stress on water conservation. During the floods of 2010, 2012 and 2014, 90 MAF water was lost due to the lack of adequate storage besides the devastating effect on crops, livestock and infrastructure. Had that water been stored, it could have been useful during the low flowing period for various sectors. Presently, we have only two big dams in Mangla and Tarbela. The government has recently initiated the construction of Diamer-Bhasha (8.1 MAF storage with 4500 MW hydropower) and Mohmand Dam (1.239 MAF storage with 800 MW hydropower) which have remained in limbo for decades. In addition to reducing water shortage of the country, improving water storage, production of cheap and affordable electricity and meeting agriculture requirements, it will add 35 years to Tarbela Dam through the reduction in sedimentation.
Water is crucial to all aspects of development such as food security, poverty reduction and health, and in sustaining economic growth in our agrarian economy, energy generation and industry. It is crucial for the continued functioning of the ecosystem on which the socio-economic development is dependent on as well as the challenges associated with society-water interface. It has a direct impact on the economy, agriculture, irrigation and the availability and provision of cheap electricity. With water availability per person declining over time and demand for food production continuously on the rise, Pakistan is faced with critical concerns regarding its future food security and the likely effects of climate change on the country’s steadily growing water demand.
As the planet enters a perilous period of environmental changes that would bring about adverse conditions such as droughts and melting glaciers, we must plan for the longer run and take steps to bridge the water demand and supply in Pakistan. Experts have emphasized on the need to build new water reservoirs to prevent the loss of water and optimal utilization of the available water resources while bringing innovative techniques to the agricultural sector, changing our agricultural practices that lay waste to water. 182,963 million rupees have been earmarked by the government for the big and small projects including the ongoing hydel, water sector projects and new schemes under Annual Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) 2020-21. The water-related problems that Pakistan is facing can be resolved or at least alleviated by good water management that can be achieved by a good quantity made accessible for use by the society as a result of technical arrangements and infrastructure apart from the quantity of water naturally available to the population.
The economic prosperity, daily life of individuals, and agricultural requirements are linked to the country’s overall security mosaic. The country would greatly benefit from the opportunities that would address these challenges vis-à-vis economic and environmental aspects of building new reservoirs including flood control, water supply, hydroelectric power and irrigation. This would mitigate the greatest emerging threat to its economic viability while securing its future and save the country from serious repercussions.
Pakistan as a nation is cognizant of its security requirements and the ground realities as the country embarks on projects of national importance and would not let anything jeopardize that.
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