Water Scenario: Past, Present and Future of Pakistan by: Muhammed Zafir Zia

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Water Scenario: Past, Present and Future of Pakistan

By: Muhammed Zafir Zia

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...
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