These views were expressed by scientists and policy advisors speaking at a seminar on ‘Climate Change and Water-related Challenges in Pakistan: Tangible Solutions’ organised by the Aga Khan University’s Institute for Global Health and Development and the national hub of United Nations’ Sustainable Development Solutions Network.
The two-day conference brought together national and global experts and climate change officials from the Provincial and Federal Government to share their evidence-based views on how water safety, security, and population health can be achieved.
In his keynote address, Professor James Wescoat, Aga Khan Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, spoke about climate change and critical water problems in the Indus Basin of Pakistan. He expressed serious concerns about increased flooding and drainage problems getting worse by 2050, especially in the lower Indus Basin.
Pakistan’s water crisis is primarily explained by rapid population growth, climate change, poor agricultural sector practices, water mismanagement, inefficient infrastructure, and water pollution.
Pakistan ranks 14th among the 17 ‘extremely high baseline water stress’ countries of the world. However, water stress is just one dimension of water security. Like any challenge, its outlook depends on management.
In his introductory remarks, Dr Zulfiqar A Bhutta, Distinguished University Professor and Founding Director of the IGHD at AKU, underscored the nexus of water security and nutrition in Pakistan and that one cannot be managed without sustaining the other. ‘Water is an equal threat as nutrition to the development of the country. By 2016, there were only 1,000 cubic meters of water left for each person in Pakistan – which is the borderline requirement’, he mentioned, while speaking about growing water insecurity in the country.
Around 96% of the country’s freshwater is used for agriculture, a sector which constituted nearly 23% of its GDP in 2021. Nevertheless, Pakistan continues to depend on a single river system and unreliable water infrastructure.
The Institute for Global Health and Development is an interdisciplinary, research-intensive initiative of Aga Khan University to tackle major global health and development challenges in South and Central Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. It is leading efforts to advance health and health-related Sustainable Development Goals and coordinate national and global research to influence broad multi-sectoral response.