World Water Day and Pakistan
The world is thirsty and nearly one billion more will lack access of clean water by 2050. According to an article published in the proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, major urban centers will lack potable water supply in the next few decades.
The study also found that if there are no positive changes, urban centers like Tehran, Manila, Beijing and Lahore will lose the basic sill of water quota per day. It said that climate change further worsens the water supply and by the mid-century some 993 million people in urban centers will live with less than 100 liters of water each day.
Drinking water is the most precious commodity in today’s world. In Pakistan, the quota of potable water is decreasing due to population growth. According to a published report entitled “Pakistan’s Water at Risk”, the per capita availability of water was 5,000 cubic meters per annum which was reduced to 1,100 cubic meters per annum in 2007 and 2012 has brought an even further reduction.
And it is not just the quantity of our water supply that is dwindling; the quality has greatly deteriorated as well.
According to a recent report published by the Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources (PCRWR), at least 40 per cent of Pakistanis do not have access to clean water. In rural areas the situation is worse with at least 90 per cent of the population not having access to clean water for drinking and cooking.
Rain and ground water are increasingly beginning to seem like our main sources to quenching this ‘thirst problem’ of both the people and livestock throughout Pakistan. But in some parts of Pakistan, and especially in Punjab the ground water is contaminated naturally with arsenic and fluoride.
Pakistan was once blessed with the bounties of fresh water but now, according to a World Bank report, it is among the top 17 thirsty countries of the world.
The horrific quality of water that is available has wrecked havoc in every part of the country. Hundreds of thousands of children die every year due to water-borne diseases. PCRWR also stated that there are at least 79 per cent of the water samples taken from the rural areas of Punjab were unsafe. Municipal, industrial and agriculture wastes are further worsening the water quality in Pakistan.
Potable water in Pakistan is mainly contaminated with turbidity, bacteriological contaminations, dissolved solids, and exceeding levels of nitrate and arsenic.
According to PCRWR, the water supply in Balochistan is worst of all, followed by Khyber Pakhtunkwha.
It is well established that Pakistan is included in the most vulnerable countries due to climate change because of a vast and diversified eco-systems ranging from Hingol to the Alpines.
The cabinet has recently approved Pakistan’s first climate change policy which is a good step; it mainly focuses on adaptation due to climate change, mitigation, disaster preparedness for major sectors like irrigation, agriculture, energy and biodiversity.
The recent floods have also positively impacted the agriculture and environment sectors. We can wisely use flood waters to raise the ground water level or for artificial ponds.
One great example is the micro-retention dams in Nagarparkar, Thar. An NGO built small dams at Karoonjhar hills which not only provide water for drinking and agricultural purpose but also bring various economical benefits for the locals.
Another solution is water harvesting in the catchments area of Cholistan where PCRWR has converted many natural slopes into ponds for water harvesting in semi-desert areas. These efforts have brought in billions to the economy of the area.
Pakistan urgently needs a comprehensive water policy in compliance with the National Climate Change Policy. We also need an independent and powerful authority to check the health indicators of the mighty River Indus. A commission is needed to keep checks on the quality, ecosystem and other factors of the River Indus.
And last but not least, if there is anything the media needs to come forward for, it is water. This commodity is indisputably crucial for the generation after ours.
The writer is a Multimedia Content Producer at Dawn.com