Water Scenario: Past, Present and Future of Pakistan Essay

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Per capita availability of surface water in Pakistan is gradually dwindling from 5300 cubic meter in 1951 to 1000 cubic meters in 2005 and is projected to hit less than 1000 cubic meters making Pakistan a water short country Of all the major problems, water crisis is the one that lies at the heart of our survival and that of our planet. Experts project that the global water crisis will reach unprecedented levels in the years ahead in many parts of the developing world. The years ahead predict the threat of looming water wars between countries.

According to figures published by the United Nations & other international organizations, 1. 1bn people are without a sufficient access to water, and 2. 4bn people have to live without adequate sanitation. Under current trends, the prognosis is that about 3bn people of a population of 8. 5bn will suffer from water shortage by 2025. 83% of them will live in developing countries, mostly in rural areas where even today sometimes only 20% of the populations have access to a sufficient water supply. Fresh drinking water is not only a need of human beings, but equally important for the animals and agriculture throughout the world.

This acute water shortage will be responsible in spreading diseases as contaminated water is the sole cause of nearly 80% infectious diseases. Hence the world has to take serious and concrete measures in order to avoid the water crisis in the years to come. Situation of Water in Pakistan: Water plays an immensely important role in the economy of Pakistan which primarily depends on Agriculture accounting for 24 per cent of the national GDP, 48 per cent employment and 70 per cent of country’s exports.

Per capita availability of surface water in Pakistan is gradually dwindling from 5300 cubic meter in 1951 to 1000 cubic meters in 2005 and is projected to hit less than 1000 cubic meters making Pakistan a water short country as per the world standards. Pakistan has a total of 77 million acres of land suitable for agriculture out of which 54 million acres (71per cent) is already cultivated. The remaining 23 million acres (29 per cent) can become productive if water is made available for irrigation.

Irrigation in Pakistan mainly depends upon Indus river which has an average annual flow of 138 to 145 MAF (Million Acre Feet). Some experts calculate this quantity as low as 123. 5 MAF. Average water flow downstream Kotri since 1977 has been 35 MAF while Sindh’s estimates indicate that roughly 10 MAF is required to flow to the sea. The Indus water quantity, after deducting 10 MAF required to flow downstream Kotri and 5 MAF for headwater uses comes to about 20 MAF which the Federal Government and some experts feel can be stored during floods and used during the lean period.

The construction of reservoirs, is thus a badly needed and viable proposition especially in view of the fact that the existing major reservoirs (Chashma, Mangla and Tarbela) are silting up and have already lost 25 per cent of their total capacity. Indus Water Treaty 1960: After Independence, problems between the two countries arose over the distribution of water. Rivers flow into Pakistan territory from India. On April 1, 1948, India stopped the supply of water to Pakistan from every canal flowing from India to Pakistan. Pakistan protested and India finally agreed on an interim agreement on May 4, 1948.

This agreement was not a permanent solution; therefore, Pakistan approached the World Bank in 1952 to help settle the problem permanently. It was finally in Ayub Khan’s regime that an agreement was signed between India and Pakistan in September 1960. This agreement is known as the “Indus Water Treaty”. This treaty divided the use of rivers and canals between the two countries. Pakistan obtained exclusive rights for the three western rivers, namely Indus, Jehlum and Chenab. And India retained rights to the three eastern rivers, namely Ravi, Beas and Sutluj.

The treaty also guaranteed ten years of uninterrupted water supply. During this period Pakistan was to build huge dams, financed partly by long-term World Bank loans and compensation money from India. Three multipurpose dams, Warsak, Mangla and Tarbela were built. A system of eight link canals was also built, and the remodeling of existing canals was carried out. Five barrages and a gated siphon were also constructed under this treaty. This treaty of 1960 was never beneficial to Pakistan as it clearly showed the Indian ascendancy.

Even after this agreement, many ater-related issues between the two countries have come to fore from time to time, especially with regard to the construction of some controversial dams by India such as Sallal Dam, Wullar Barrage, Baglihar Dam and now Kishanganga dam. Indian Violations: Baglihar Hydroelectric Power Project and Kishanganga Dam The Baglihar Hydroelectric Power Project on the Chenab River (Chenab was allocated to Pakistan according to the 1960 Treaty) in the southern Doda district of the Indian administered state of Jammu and Kashmir was conceived in 1992, approved in 1996 and its construction began in 1999 with an estimated cost of USD $1 billion.

Instead of immediate questioning and pressurizing India to stop the construction of the controversial Baglihar dam Pakistani government reacted very late and clumsily. Pakistan started talks with India in 2002, in order to convince India to change the design of the dam but to no avail. The talks failed and Pakistan raised the issue of the illegal construction of baglihar with the World Bank in 2005.

Pakistan raised 4 major concerns and reservations related to the construction of Baglihar dam, firstly its height, secondly its capacity of storing water, thirdly installing the gated control of spillway and fourthly that this project is in violation to the Indus Water Treaty of 1960. The World Bank nominated Professor Raymond Lafitte, a Swiss national, civil engineer and professor at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, as a neutral expert to make a finding on a difference between the two governments concerning the construction of the Baglihar project.

Mr. Lafitte declared his final verdict on February 12, 2007 in which he upheld some minor objections of Pakistan. The report acknowledged India’s right to construct ‘gated spillways’ under Indus water treaty 1960. The report allowed pondage of 32. 58 MCM as against India’s demand for 38 MCM. The report also recommended to reduce the height of freeboard from 4. 5 m to 3. 0 m. However he rejected Pakistani objections on height and gated control of spillway declaring these were conforming to engineering norms of the day.

Experts projected that this Baglihar Dam would decrease 8000 cusecs of water daily to Pakistan which in totality is about 29 lakh 20 thousands cusecs an year and will badly hit the agriculture sector of Punjab in particular. The Kishanganga dam is located 160 km upstream from Muzaffarabad and involves the diversion of Kishanganga River (called the Neelum River in Pakistan) to a tributary named Bunar Madumati Nullah of Jhelum near Bunkot. Experts say that the Kishanganga project (to be build across the Jehlum river) could reduce Pakistan’s total water availability from an estimated 154 MAF to about 140 MAF per year.

It would also leave significant portion of the Mangla Dam’s storage capacity unutilised. It is also feared that the diversion would result in an ecological disaster for the area. In water-related issues, Pakistan has always been on the losing end. By being engaged in negotiations with Pakistan, India secures sufficient time to continue the unnoticed construction of its controversial dams. For that reason India balks at the indulgence of third party in all water-related issues between both the countries and instead it insists on bilateral talks.

India is constructing more than 50 dams on the Indus and Jehlum and 7 other dams other than Baglihar on the Chenab river. By constructing one after another controversial dams, India is causing trouble for Pakistan which is already confronting a severe water crisis. Diamer-Bhasha dam: A step forward The President of Pakistan during his national address on 17 January 2006 announced the decision of Government to construct 5 multi-purpose storages in the country during next 10 -12 years. Diamer Basha Dam Project will be undertaken in the first phase.

Work on the project started after the ground-breaking ceremony by the President of Pakistan. The Executive Committee of the National Economic Council has approved the construction of Diamer-Bhasha dam. It is revealed that 4500 MW of electricity would be generated through the dam. The construction work will be completed in seven years with the cost of $12. 6 billions, ; will have the capacity to store 8. 1 million acre feet water. The project is scheduled to be completed within the prescribed time frame in 2016. Disharmony and reservations:

It is lamentable that once Pakistan was among the top wheat producing countries of the world but today it has to import wheat to cater the needs of its people. Wheat crop needs plenty of water while in winter wheat crop is supplied water from dams. It is unfortunate, rather criminal negligence, that our successive governments have not been able to build any major dam after Mangla and Tarbela whose storage capacity is shrinking due to silt by each passing day. How ironic it is that our politicians are quick to solve the Kalabagh dam by putting off this project for indefinite period which is equivalent to abandoning the project.

Our politicians are of the view that Kalabagh dam is detrimental to our federation. It is a bitter reality that by being lazy to find out a suitable substitute to Kalabagh Dam for many decades, we have reached a situation where not one or two but a series of dams can save our lands from turning into deserts. It is true that India is going ahead with controversial dams and is interfering with our waters, showing utter disregard to the provisions of the Indus Water Treaty.

However, raising a great hue and cry over India’s unjust construction of dams can hardly persuade New Delhi to change its mind. Therefore, the need of the hour is to make the optimal use of our waters by making a number of dams on emergency basis. Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan once said that the scarcity of water will pose a greater threat than the nuclear capability of the enemy . Therefore drastic measures should be taken to conserve each and every drop of water available not only think of ourselves but also for our generations to come. How to improve the situation?

Population of Pakistan today is around more than 160 million and it is expected to rise to 208 million by 2025. This growth in population will significantly increase the demand for food and fibre, with both land and water resources are declining day by day. Pakistan’s food import bill is rising on account of population and output is declining as a result of reduced water availability.

However it is appreciable that the water sector had been given the highest priority in the budget allocation of 2007-08 with an allocation of Rs 70. 1 billion, which was 24 percent higher than the preceding year budget allocation. Elected political leadership in Pakistan has been able to develop consensus on a number of extremely complex and altercated issues such as the 1973 Constitution and 1991 Water Accord. Therefore a serious and sincere effort by politicians can help resolving all water related disputes and remove the doubts ; reservations put forward by provinces. Pakistan’s political leadership needs to activate constitutional conflicts resolution mechanisms such as the Council of Common Interests (CCI).

To overcome water shortage crisis, the solution lies in the proper water management at watershed, reservoirs, conveyance system i. e, at canals and distributaries level as well as watercourses and farm application levelling of open channels and use of pipes to transport water for reducing seepage losses. To prepare cemented water beds at the bottom of the base. Building of more dams in the country is also good solution to solve the problem of water shortage. Pakistanis need the will, dedication, strength and the unity in order to resolve the water crisis in Pakistan.

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