There is a developing prospect that this year’s monsoon is not going to deliver sufficient rainfall to replenish our depleted reservoirs – and this despite a burst of rain in the north of the country over the last two days. The Indian monsoon is reportedly 22 percent down on where it should be, and in Pakistan the third monsoon that started on July 18 ended on the 21st without significant rainfall. Rainfall generally has been below expectations nationally and the monsoon has failed to advance into Sindh. A fourth burst of the monsoon delivered rainfall in northern parts of the country and upper Punjab but dissipated by the July 27. The shortfall in India could spell drought – and the same may be true for us as well. Our reservoirs are already low this year and what rainfall there has been has not been conserved as the dams and dykes are in poor shape allowing waters to flow out unused into the Arabian Sea.
It will be recalled that there were similar weather patterns two years ago, but that August 2010 produced the catastrophic Great Flood. It may yet be that August this year will produce sufficient rainfall to stave off a water crisis, but if it does not then there are going to be serious consequences. Even without a monsoon failure Pakistan was in serious water-deficiency. A rising population and an economy heavily dependent on irrigated agriculture coupled with rising salinity, increasing desertification and a chronic failure to expand or maintain existing water infrastructures add up to a very considerable long-term problem. The per capita availability of water is currently 1,011 cubic metres, marginally above the 1,000cm that is the minimum requirement. In 1951, it was 5,269 per capita. Pakistan is going to drop below the 1000cm point in the not too distant future, down to 877cm by 2020 and a population that will probably have topped 210 million by then. Wapda acknowledge that the situation is critical and that before long the whole country is going to be water-deficient. Those who keep an eye on global meteorology will also have noted that the USA is experiencing unusually hot and drought-like conditions in its wheat producing areas. The USA is the world’s bread basket and supplies countries that are wheat-poor – like India in a drought or Pakistan. We currently have a wheat-surplus, but this year’s crop is uncertain. Combine an American drought with a monsoon failure in the subcontinent and the bleakest of scenarios emerges.