Irshad Salim — Rapid depletion of ground water and absence of well-organized, sustainable recharging regime in the country, may soon create worsening water crisis in Pakistan’s major cities, causing a drought-like situation.
And, with the specter of drought looming over the country in view of the erratic weather patterns, the Council of Common Interests (CCI) is scheduled to meet soon and is likely to approve the National Water Policy aimed at ensuring effective use of water by households, farmers and industries.
Stressing the need for urgent steps to avert such a crisis, Mr. Ashraf, chief of the Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources (PCRWR) said on Thursday that, “Such measures need to be taken on a war footing, otherwise a large section of Pakistan’s population, especially those living in Karachi, Quetta, Lahore and Islamabad, will face severe water shortages.”
Worst affected could be Karachi and Lahore, indicate independent reports published by the World Bank and the WHO. “It has the potential to morph into a national security issue,” said one local expert.
Ashraf who was interacting with media after the concluding session of a subregional meeting of experts on groundwater management in capital Islamabad said the PCRWR collaborated with the UNESCO and ECO Science Foundation (ECOSF) officials to discuss the alarming water situation not only in Pakistan but elsewhere in the region and its potential impacts.
The meeting he said focused on the UNESCO Tehran Cluster, mainly covering Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan and Turkmenistan report The Express Tribune.
Ashraf said the water quality as well as its quantity in Pakistan are major issues, especially in major cities such as Karachi, Quetta, Lahore and even in Islamabad,” adding that rapid population growth, urbanization, deforestation and lack of awareness about the importance of water are major causes for the emergence of this crisis.
Experts at the seminar expressed concern over the alarming water situation in the region and agreed that if even a single town in any of these countries was facing an acute water shortage, it was a major threat to the entire region.
The impact of climate change – intensification of floods, erratic monsoon rains and droughts – is already evident in Pakistan, experts say; and rising temperatures, resulting in enhanced heat and water-stress condition, particularly in arid and semi-arid regions, will lead to reduced agriculture productivity.
Vibeke Jensen, the Director of UNESCO Islamabad, said that an effective groundwater management in the regional context was crucial for Agenda 2030.
Fazal Abbas Maken, Secretary of the Ministry of Science and Technology, said that availability, accessibility and affordability of clean water on sustainable basis were essential for the region.
“Water management is a trans-disciplinary issue and can be solved by involving all stakeholders and also by educating the end users,” he added.
According to experts, there is urgent need to make water delivery services economically and financially sustainable and putting emphasis on the social and economic value of water is imperative. The concept of affordability should be applied to social uses but water supply will be free of charge for environmental and ecological needs, suggest experts.