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September 12, 2018

Drought alert


September 12, 2018

The absence of rains in the current season has been causing a drought in some parts of the country. Till two weeks back, it was thought that the drought-like situation only existing in Tharparkar. The Meteorological Department has stated that the moderate–to-severe drought conditions exist in most of Sindh and parts of southern Balochistan. The situation is set to get more severe. The cause is the climate phenomenon known as El Nino, a series of irregular climate changes that cause a decline in rainfall amongst other effects. Sindh and Balochistan have suffered a 70 percent and 46 percent drop in rainfall between May and August. Similarly, there is moderate drought in southern Punjab as well as districts in Gilgit-Baltistan. Compounded with the low rainfall in the northern regions, the water supply available has nearly halved, which is likely to create a crisis in agriculture and the wellbeing of the people of the affected regions. The lack of irrigation water will cause water stress for Kharif crops. The question is how the government addresses this situation in both the short and long terms.

The government will have to determine whether this is an emergency situation and stringent measures on water conservation will need to be imposed. The better news is that Tarbela Dam is at maximum level while a number of small dams have more supply. However, the low water supply in the Mangla reservoir and low expectation of rainfall in the next three months, water shortages are also expected in the Rabi season. The Sindh government has already acted to declare six districts drought hit and provide wheat to relieve suffering – although wheat alone cannot solve water scarcity. What is worrying is that the Met Department is not seeing rainfall in September either. The low monsoon rains have meant floods have been avoided but it has left the major areas facing drought. This is a crisis that needs to be addressed in right now. The water scarcity will continue across the year and could cause a more serious crisis within the next three months. The situation is a worrying one and requires a coordinated response.

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