ISLAMABAD: The per capita water availability is dwindling with every passing day, putting the food security at risk, according to a Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda) report on Saturday.
The per capita water availability in Pakistan has dwindled by over 406 percent from 5,260 cubic metres in 1951 to 1,038 cubic metres in 2010, only marginally above the 1,000 cubic metres per person threshold value under the global criteria, the report said.
“If the status quo continues, then by 2020, the water availability in Pakistan would further plummeted to 877 cubic metres per annum, which will further go down to an alarmingly level of 575 cubic feet in 2050,” it added.
The report highlighted that Pakistan’s storage capacity is just for 30 days, whereas India has the ability to store water for 120-220 days.
Meanwhile, Egypt has 1,000 days water storage capacity only on River Nile, America 900 days on River Colorado, Australia 600 and South Africa has the ability to store water for 500 days on River Orange.
The agriculture productivity in Pakistan in the wake of just 30 days water storage capacity has also alarmingly tumbled because of the water scarcity and its contribution towards gross domestic product (GDP) has lowered by 21.8 percent of GDP.”
According to the document, underground water is fast depleting as the annual extraction of water has swelled up to 51 million-acre feet of water.
Pakistan’s geographical area, the document unveils, is 196.7 million acres (MA), of which 72.7 million acres is suitable for agriculture, of which 52.4 million acres of land is a cultivated area (irrigated and barani). The area under irrigation is 48.2 million acres.
This shows that 20.3 million acres of land is still needed to be irrigated, which can only be done if Pakistan possesses the capacity to regulate the water releases by building more reservoirs.
In case Pakistan has more dams, then it can easily irrigate additional land of 20.3 million acres in the country, ensuring food security and exposing the country to prosperity.
Sindh has 3.5 million acres of land, which can be brought under cultivation, Punjab has 3.9 million acres, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) 3.1 million acres and Baluchistan has 9.8 million acres of land, which if irrigated, then there would be green revolution guaranteeing prosper Pakistan, it revealed.
The report said that in 1951, Pakistan’s population was just 34 million, which has now increased to an estimated figure of 173 million as no population census is carried out since long. However, in the graph prepared by Wapda on water availability vis-a-vis population shows that in 2020, the water availability would stand at 877 cubic metres with the population of the country at 204 million and in 2030 water availability would be at 751 cubic metres with 238 million population and in 2050 water availability would be reduced to 575 cubic metres with a population of 273 million.
This shows that growth in population and increasing stress on water resources in the wake of faulty water policies in the past has compounded the problems to an unimaginable level.
The document discloses that Pakistan has also lost its capacity to store water by 27 percent (4.37 million feet of water) from 16.28 MAF to 11.91 MAF because of sedimentation, as 4.99 MAF gets stored in the Mangla Dam alone. Tarbela was built in 1974 with the storage capacity of 9.69 MAF, which has now reduced in 2011 by 31 percent (3.02 MAF) to 6.77 MAF. Mangla Dam that was built in 1967 with the capacity to store water of 5.87 million acres feet of water has witnessed reduction in its storage capacity by 15 percent (0.88MAF) to 4.99 MAF.
Likewise, Chashma barrage was built in 1971 with the ability to store 0.72 MAF water but owing to the sedimentation, its storage capacity has dwindled by 65 percent (0.47MAF) to just 0.25MAF.
In toto, the country’s water storage capacity has eroded by 27 percent (4.37MAF) percent, which is almost equal to close to one full dam of Mangla whose existing capacity to store water is 4.99MAF.
The document also predicts that Pakistan will lose more capacity to store water by up to 37 percent (5.95MAF) in 2025, if water managers of the country did not correct the policies and built the dams on Pakistan rivers.
It is more unfortunate that the top political leadership and establishment is not paying heed towards improving the water storage capacity of the country and increasing the per capita water availability, rather their indifference to this alarming issue is forcing 173 million people of the country to food insecurity in the years to come.
The per capita storage capacity in the United States stands at 6,150 cubic metres, in Australia 5,000 cubic metres but in Pakistan it is just 132 cubic metres that show how vulnerable 173 million Pakistan are in terms of water availability.
The World Bank and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) have already termed Pakistan as one of the most “water stressed” countries in the world, which is likely to face an acute water shortage over the next five years due to the lack of water availability for irrigation, industry and human consumption.
Water supply in Pakistan fell from 5,000 cubic metres per capita to 1,000 cubic metres in 2010, and is likely to further reduce to 800 cubic metres per capita by 2020, according to the WB report.
According to Falkenmark Water Stress Indicator, a country or region is said to experience “water stress” when annual water supplies drop below 1,700 cubic metres per person per annum.
When water supplies dropped below 1,000 cubic metres per person per annum, the country faces “water scarcity”.
The report also pinpoints that in Pakistan, water is excessively wasted at houses, offices, markets and factories. Fresh and drinking water is used for washing, gardening and other non-drinkable purposes. “Besides wastage, burgeoning population, climate change, lack of water reservoirs and manipulation of Jhelum and Chenab rivers by India are other key factors squeezing water availability in Pakistan.”
Moreover, the United Nations has placed Pakistan among the “water hotspots” of Asia-Pacific Region, saying that the country faces major threats of increasing water scarcity, high water utilisation, deteriorating water quality and climate change risk.
According to Wapda chairman, Pakistan’s water situation is deteriorating day-by-day and if the status quo continues then Pakistan will be left to face unprecedented catastrophe in terms of touching the per capita water availability to its lowest ebb.” However, he said, if government provides Wapda timely and speedy financial releases, then water situation could be improved to some extent.
For various water projects, the government has in 2009-10 released finances amounting to Rs11.395 billion as against the demand of Rs27.115 billion and in 2010-11, it released just Rs9.692 billion against the original demand of Rs15.360 billion an in 2011-12, against the demand of Rs138 billion, the government has released only Rs14.707 billion.
“And if the situation continues, then the destiny of Pakistan will certainly be none other than the drought, hunger, poverty and darkness as the prosperity lies in building new reservoirs in the country.”
The Wapda chairman also said that in 2010-11, around 54.5MAF water went down to sea, which demonstrates the demand of the erection of huge dams on the River Indus to ensure the regulated supply of water downstream Kotri to stop seas intrusion.
The government needs to become proactive for timely required financial releases, he said, adding that the government has committed only Rs6 billion for Mangla Dam raising project in the currant fiscal year 2012-13 against the demand of Rs8 billion, for Gomal Zam Dam Rs1.8 billion against the demand of Rs5 billion, for Satpara Dam Rs300 million against Rs500 million, Kurram Tangi Dam Rs500 million against the demand of Rs5 billion and for the currant fiscal year, the government has denied any allocation to Wapda for Mirani and Sabakzai dams.
Wapda had placed the demand of releasing Rs100 billion for 35 water projects but it has been committed only Rs24.120 billion. This is the main reason that Wapda has failed to increase the water availability in the country, he said.
To a question about the water releases downstream Kotri, he said, releasing of water downstream Kotri is necessary to stop the sea intrusion in the coastal areas of Sindh for which 8.6 million acres feet of water downstream Kotri must be released in a year but every year, it is released by 30-32 million acres feet of water on an average just because of the fact that Pakistan has no more dams on River Indus, except Tarbela Dam that has lost 31 percent storage capacity due to silt, to regulate the releases of water downstream Kotri.
According to Arshad H Abbasi, eminent water expert and currently associated with SDPI, India at the international forums always comes up with the stance that Pakistan is rich in water as on an average it releases 30-32MAF water downstream Kotri every year so if it makes the dam on Pakistan rivers, it is its right as upper riparian, particularly when the lower riparian is busy wasting the water by throwing it into the sea.