KARACHI- It was recently brought to notice by the Businessmen Panel (BMP) that, water crisis is emerging as one of the biggest challenges faced by Pakistan, as its water resources are running dry at an alarming rate, particularly in Balochistan.
BMP Secretary General and FPCCI Standing Committee Former Chairman, Mr. Ahmad Jawad added that, farmers has faced an immense financial loss annually, on account of crop wastage due to non availability of dams. Approximately, loss of Rs. 100 billion has been recorded per year.
The current extreme water shortage warnings have attracted the nation’s attention. Annual water availability that was nearly 1,300 cubic meters per capita, has now fallen to 1000 cubic meters, leaving Pakistan in the category of highly water stressed nations in the world.
Mr. Jawad also revealed that IMF has placed Pakistan on 3rd position in the context of water crisis. In addition, studies suggest that even though currently Pakistan is already a water stressed country, but if suitable action won’t be taken by the Government and citizens for its preservation, then undeniably these prospects and predictions could come true, causing a lot of distress.
As major areas of Pakistan are already witnessing a looming water crisis, the effect on the agriculture sector is devastating, as lack of water is negatively affecting the growth of important crops, harming the economy.
Clean water is scarce in many areas, creating trouble for the citizens, making their lives miserable. He added, "In major cities of Pakistan, underground water is salty and thus not drinkable. Hence, a large number of people have to walk long distances in search of clean water, while more than 27 million Pakistanis lack access to potable water and almost 70 % water in the homeland is unfit for human consumption.”
This unfortunate situation leaves majority of people to resort towards contaminated and harmful water.
Almost 250,000 children under the age of five, die every year due to waterborne diseases, costing the economy around $ 1.3 billion; while four-fifths of all diseases that Pakistanis suffer from, such as Cholera, Diarrhoea, Typhoid and Hepatitis, are all caused by contaminated and untreated water.
Mr. Jawad stated that the government should rationalize the country's agriculture sector and diversify the cropping pattern immediately, to save water till the completion of big and small reservoirs.
In this regard, it is vital that Provincial Governments must curtail the cultivation of sugarcane and rice crops because they consume a lot of water, and instead promote other cash crops that need less water for sowing, growing and maturing
He further added that, laser levelling of lands under cultivation should be performed, followed by implementing drip irrigation and sprinklers system.
He pointed out that, Pakistan's canal system is worth more than $30 billion but at the same time, "abayna" (water price) from farmers is very minimal. The irrigation departments should increase the prices of 'abayna' so that worn out canal system gets rehabilitated for judicious use of this precious resource.
Former FPCCI Chairman also voiced out that, Pakistan has still not formulated a system of water pricing yet, whereas the other countries have already done so. All industrial units in Pakistan use water for free, including mineral water companies. He added that our government must place a policy where mineral water companies pay the amount per litre while pumping the underground or surface water.
He also urged the Provincial Governments to build new barrages and small dams to store flood and rain water for agriculture and domestic purposes, to fight water scarcity.