A research report launched on Friday said that water crisis in Pakistan is now at par with terrorism in terms of being an existential threat to the country’s security.
This was the major concern raised by respondents, interviewed by the Jinnah Institute during the compilation of the report.
The report collated perceptions of a wide range of policy stakeholders on the political economy of water management practices in Pakistan.
According to the report, insufficient water storage capacity has greatly impacted the availability of water, while public debate on developing new infrastructure has stalemated in recent years. The limits of state capacity in addressing water-related challenges, underpinned by inadequate social infrastructure, lack of political consensus and financial constraints have been cited as the major roadblocks by a majority of respondents.
On the subject of climate change and disaster management, the report found that while government bodies had learnt critical lessons in recent years, early warning systems were still not in place. Some water experts warn that Pakistan should prepare for an “environmental disaster”, with the country’s seasonal monsoons shifting away from traditional catchments areas toward Afghanistan. This trend has multiplied the potential for flash floods and erratic rainfall.
Annual water availability per capita has fallen drastically since Partition, from approximately 5,000 cubic metres to nearly 1,500 cubic metres, impacting marginalized communities and women the most. In the absence of progressive water pricing systems, domestic water wastage in cities is rampant.
On the subject of trans-boundary water sharing, a majority of interviewees felt that the Indus Waters Treaty (IWT) had stood the test of time and largely served to protect Pakistan’s interests. However, they also expressed a dire need for a framework or treaty with Afghanistan to prevent future conflict between the two countries on the Kabul River.
Major recommendations made by respondents underscored the need for making accurate and reliable water data available as well as investing in more efficient methods of agriculture and conservation techniques, including drip irrigation and rainwater harvesting.