Based on the Falkenmark Water StressIndicator levels, water availability in a country about 1700 cubic meters percapita per year is the threshold, where water shortages occur only irregularly.1UN also defines the water stress & scarcity levels based on this indicator.Furthermore, an area is considered to bewater stressed if annual water supplies drop below 1,700 cubic meters perperson upto 1000 cubic meters.
Water scarcity is when the supplies drop below1000 cubic meters per person per year and below 500 cubic metres the nationfaces absolute scarcity.2Though water stress is a global challenge it is even more acute in Asia &more particularly South Asia. Water Stress 25.
In the 1950’s,Pakistan was a water abundant state with an availability of more than 5,000cubic meters of water per capita per year.3With the increase in population & the consequent increase in requirementsof food production, energy demands, industrialisation, rapid urbanisation etc& the limited renewability of water resources, the water levels have seen adrastic decrease in availability of almost 400%. Presently Pakistani populationhas an average availability of just over 1,000 cubic meters as against eachIndian who gets 1,730 cubic meters & the global average of 8,209 cubicmeters.4It is estimated that Pakistan is likely to reach water scarcity levels by 2025which may happen as early as 2020 & reach absolute scarcity by 2050 or evenearlier. Water Resources : Pakistan 26. Pakistan is primarily reliant on theIndus rivers for its water requirements. The Indus system consists of six maintributaries namely Indus, Chenab, Jhelum, Sutlej Beas & Ravi of which thewestern rivers (Indus, Chenab & Jhelum) are completely reserved for use byPakistan. The Indus is further joined by other rivers namely Kabul, Swat from the West before it drains into the Arabian Sea.
The river system issustained by glacier & snow melt & precipitation. It is severlyaffected by climate changes which is likely to further increase with thedeteriorating climatic conditions. The availability is also not perennial butrather seasonal, marred by variability in terms of glacier melt levels affecting the flow of Indus rivers varying from approx 180MAF to 96 MAF. This causes conditions of floods & drought, while makingresource management quite complex.5 Whilethe availability is almost 75% in monsoons & 25% for the rest of the year,the requirement is 60% during summers & 40% during winters, necessitatingthe requirement of storing the water during surplus months for the lean months.
27. Thewaters of the Indus rivers are further diverted into canals to meet theirrigation requirements of the other regions. Pakistan has one of the thelargest irrigation canal networks in the Indus River basin built during thecolonial era by the Britishers with the aim of developing the agrarian frontierin West Punjab as a defensive measure.
These canals further developed intocanal colonies as the waste land transformed into fertile lands but also made the region highly dependent on a continuous supplyof water, thus creating vested interests and stakes for the landholding classin the process. While the canals originating from the dams& barrages are perennial the river reliant canals are seasonal by the precipitation.6 28. Belowthe rim of the Himalayas lies one of the largest freshwater acquifers in theworld, which is also, in the world one of the most overexploited. Pakistan’ssubsurface groundwater resources amount to about 51 MAF, most of which lie in Punjab& is the main source of drinking water in Pakistan. A substantial amount ofthe available water diverted in the Indus basin canal system refills thegroundwater reservoir. Farmers depend on groundwater to supply about 40% oftheir irrigation water demands. However over-exploitation over the years hasled to a drastic decrease in the availability of groundwater.
7 29. Inaddition Pakistan has also built a number of barrages to supply water forirrigation, industrial & domestic purposes. There are a total of 12barrages which perennially sustain some of the canals, ensuring a regular flow primarilyfor irrigation purposes.8 Causes for Water Crisis 30. WaterManagement.
The majorityof the blame for Pakistan’s existing water crisis lies with Pakistan itself,for its wasteful & inefficient water management system. Though Pakistan hasa multiplicity of water related legislations & regulations theirimplementation is marred by a ineffective internal administration managed by acorrupt bureaucracy. The most important legislation governing water in thecountry is the Canal and Drainage Act 1873, which provides the key legalframework for water management in the agricultural sector. The act allocatesconsiderable administrative and judicial authority to irrigation departmentofficials with almost no provision for public accountability.
Also the waterrights are linked to land rights & cannot be traded independently, skewingthe system in favour of the rich land owners & creating inequity in thesharing of water resources with the rural population & farmers. Variousmechanisms such as Warabandi – acolonial water distribution system, which mandates fixed time rotationalirrigation scheduling has not been able to ensure that the farmers get theirrightful share of water. The Water Tax– Abiana has also not been revisedsince the 1970s making the once profitable irrigation system run into losses.The Provincial Irrigation & Drainage Authorities are failing in theefficient management & operations of the system due to the losses beingincurred. 9 Toovercome this problem there is an increased exploitation in the mining ofgroundwater resources especially in the Balochistan region leading to furtherlowering of the ground water tables & drying of the aquifers.
Pakistanhas adopted numerous policies & strategies over the past decade to addressthe emerging water crisis. These include the Environment Policy(2005), which includes a supplemental Water Supply & Management Policy, theDrinking Water & Sanitation Policy (2009) & the National Climate ChangePolicy (2011). Pakistan also developed the 2003 Pakistan Water Strategy,defining blueprint for water resources in the country for the first quarter ofthe twenty-first century. In 2005 a comprehensive National Water Policy wasalso drafted, but has not yet been adopted.10The implementation & translation of these schemes into concrete resultoriented aspects is the most crucial aspect & has become the focus ofdomestic and international debate. 31.
ProvincialManagement. In addition toequitable distribution of wateramongst the various sectors, Pakistan also needs to effectively manage thewater distribution amongst the various physical provinces. There is a largeimbalance in the distribution system between the Punjab & Sindh provinces other backward provinces especially Balochistan. The Provincial Waterarbiters such as the Indus River System Authority have also failed to ensureequitable distribution of water amongst the provinces. This is attributable tothe complex & disjointed institutional configurations which govern waterand development at the federal, provincial, and local levels.
The watermanagement at the federal level lies within the jurisdiction of the Ministry ofWater and Power. However, each province has its own authorities that govern irrigation,water development, and supply and sanitation. Data on water use are circulated everyten days, from the Indus River System Authority (IRSA) to the provincialirrigation departments to the watercourses in the fields then back to the centraloffices and IRSA. The provinces are accused of muddling the data & datasources and how these data are collected and shared is a source of mistrust andcontroversy between the provinces.
11 (a) PoK. Ironically despite being an upper riparian state Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK) suffers the most,receiving only a negligible share of water for irrigation. While in Pakistanalmost 80% of the cultivable area is irrigated, only a marginal 13% of thecultivable area is irrigated in PoK, despite the fact that agriculture accountsfor 84% of the livelihood in PoK.
The population in this region has alsosuffered dislocation on account of creation of the Mangla Dam built in 1967& are yet to receive their compensation in the form of relocation. Eventheir rightful share of water promised to them from the Mangla Dam has beenrejected by the Indus River System Authority (IRSA).12 (b) Sindh – Punjab. The dispute between Sindh has been in existence since as early as the 1850’s, since the Britishcolonial era. While canal development & irrigation channels wereconstructed in Punjab, the same was denied to Sindh. This discriminatorybehaviour towards Sindh was is summed up by the statement by Michel ArthurAloys, “While Punjab is often described as the ‘fair child’ of the British, Sindhhas often been termed as a ‘step child'”.13The construction of the Kalabagh Dam has created another conflict with Sindharguing that in the absence of surplus water, the dam would continue to fill,resulting in reducing the flow of Indus towards Sindh & other lowerriparian states.
(c) Balochistan– Sindh. As has alreadybeen brought out, Balochistanis primarily dependent on agriculture for sustenance of its economy &livelihood. The supply of water from the Sukkur barrage during the month ofJune-July, when rice transplantation is in swing & the water supply levelsgo down to below 1400 cusecs as compared to the authorised 2200 cusecs is amajor reason of water shortage in Balochistan. Even the water distribution fromthe Hub dam is inequitable in favour of Sindh by 63% to 37%, despite the factthat the dam receives rainfall from the catchment area which lies 72% inBalochistan & 28% in Sindh.
14 Balochistanhas also been raising concerns regarding the excessive construction oftubewells in Punjab, which is having an adverse impact on the flow of IndusRiver. It has proposed that water extracted from tubewells be brought into acommon distribution pool. Even the construction of Kalabagh dam in Punjab &the Righ Bank Outfall III Drain project being developed by WAPDA in Sindh arebeing opposed by Balochistan. (d) Khyber-Pakhtunhwa.
The province is a water richprovince with a number of rivers running through it. However its maincontention in the Inter-Provincial water dispute is its opposition to theKalabagh dam in view of the human displacement & loss of fertile cultivableland. (e) Punjab. Punjab is the most populous & economically richprovince in Pakistan & contributes a major share to the overallagricultural produce in the country.
It is also an upper riparian to most otherstates. However within Punjab there is a dispute between South & NorthPunjab where South Punjab once the most prominent agricultural economy hassuffered due to inequitable water distribution. The rural population in SouthPunjab have access to only limited water resources, which creates a conflictbetween North & South Punjab & Sindh. 32. Agriculturebased Economy. Pakistan is anagriculture based economy which accounts for approximately 21 per cent of thenation’s GDP, contributes approximately 60% of annual national foreign exchangeearnings & provides employment to approximately 47 per cent of the population.
The agricultural sector is also one of the most inefficient in its waterefficiency. It uses almost 97% of Pakistan’s water resources to support one ofthe lowest productivities in the world per unit of water. This is primarilyattributable to the long canal irrigation system which irrigates 66% of thetotal cultivable land in Pakistan of about 22.2 million hectare (mha) & hasan efficiency rate as low as 40%.15While food security is an important aspect in a country where even most of theprovincial economies are largely agriculture dependent, the low efficiency rateis impacting growth in other sectors such as industries by wasteful consumptionof one of the critical resources – Water.1 FalkenmarkWater Stress Indicator, http://environ.chemeng.
ntua.gr/WSM/Newsletters/Issue4/Indicators_Appendix.htm#Falkenmark,accessed October 22 2017.2 United NationsDepartment of Economic & Social Affairs (UNDESA), International Decade forAction ‘Water For Life’ 2005 – 2015, http://www.un.org/waterforlifedecade/scarcity.
shtmlaccessed October 22 2017.3 United StatesInstitute of Peace, Understanding Pakistan’s Water Security Nexus (Washington:Peaceworks, June 2013.4 Col CP Shankar(Retd), Asia’s Water Crisis & New Security Risk (New Delhi: NehaPublishers, 2015) pp. 116.
5 United NationsDevelopment Programme, Development Advocate Pakistan (Islamabad:United Nations,2016).6 Medha Bisht,Water Sector in Pakistan: Policy, Politics & Management. IDSA Monograph SeriesNo.
18, April 2013, pp. 13 – 14.7 United StatesInstitute of Peace, Understanding Pakistan’s Water Security Nexus, n. 3.8 Medha Bisht,Water Sector in Pakistan: Policy, Politics & Management, n.
6 pp 33 – 34.9 United StatesInstitute of Peace, Understanding Pakistan’s Water Security Nexus, n. 3.10 United StatesInstitute of Peace, Understanding Pakistan’s Water Security Nexus, n.
3.11 Ibid.12 GitanjaliBakshi & Sahiba Trivedi, “The Indus Equation”, Strategic Foresight Group,June 2011.
13 Medha Bisht,Water Sector in Pakistan: Policy, Politics & Management, n. 6 pp 50.14 Muhammed Idris Rajput,”Inter-Provincial Water Issues in Pakistan”, Draft Background Paper, PakistanInstitute of Legislative Development & Transparency, January 2011.15 Medha Bisht,Water Sector in Pakistan: Policy, Politics & Management, n. 6 pp 33 – 34.