Monday June 27, 2022

On the edge

May 18, 2022

Sindh is facing an acute water shortage and does not have water for its agriculture sector and domestic needs. Some parts of the province are on the verge of famine. This gruesome situation has forced people to start a social media trend under the hashtag ‘SindhNeedsWater’.

Federal Minister for Water Resources Khursheed Ahmed Shah has said that all provinces are facing a water shortage. He believes that the situation will continue for some time and only improve in late June.

Pakistan is indeed facing a water crisis that needs to be dealt with in a timely manner. The country is in the list of 17 water-scarce countries in the world; its water availability has decreased from over 5,500 cubic metres per capita in 1950 to below 1,000 cubic metres per capita now.

When it comes to tackling the water crisis in Pakistan, many suggest that Pakistan should increase its water storage capacity as it can store water for only 30 days against the international standards of 120 days. Experts think that Pakistan should build dams to store excess water which is usually lost.

However, this does not mean that controversial dam projects are revived. Instead, the federal government should help provinces in building dams and other reservoirs.

It will be relevant to mention that the irrigation department of the Sindh government has identified about 120 potential sites for building small storage dams in the Kohistan range (upper, central and lower Khirthar hills), Nagarparkar (Karonjhar hills), and Sukkur and Khairpur (Ubhan Shah hills). It will be a good idea to build water reservoirs in Sindh and Balochistan.

Currently, the water stored in the existing dams is mostly used for the needs of upper provinces. Sindh has repeatedly protested against the unequal distribution of water from the existing reservoirs and complained that it is being denied its due share of water even in the summer when there is abundant water.

In the summer, water is diverted to dams and is only allowed in small quantities that are hardly sufficient for agricultural needs. At present, the Indus Delta is deprived of water and is on the verge of destruction. On the other hand, the sea is claiming thousands of arable land in Thatta and other coastal areas of Sindh.

There is also a need for making efforts to achieve water efficiency. A World Bank report suggests that around 60 per cent of irrigation water is lost in conveyance and transportation. Water canals should be properly cemented to avoid any waste.

Farmers in Pakistan grow water-intensive crops such as sugarcane and rice, which consume large amounts of water. These crops should be replaced by water-efficient crops such as wheat and barley. Undoubtedly, the phasing out of sugarcane will affect sugar availability in the country, but the commodity can be imported from neighbouring countries.

Also, Pakistan should shift to modern irrigation technologies such as drip and sprinkle irrigation. Many advanced countries have been using these methods for years now as these methods have proved to be quite effective and enabled these countries to get high yields while using less water. There is no doubt that Pakistan does not have enough resources to switch to modern irrigation methods, but it should take the first step.

Campaigns stressing the importance of water should be launched through the print and electronic media. People should be told to use water carefully. Religious scholars can also educate people about the importance of water conservation.

Pakistan must take necessary steps without much delay and formulate long-term policies to increase its water storage capacity and bring it up to international standards. It should also increase its efficiency.

The writer is a freelance contributor. He can be reached at:


    zahida abro commented a month ago

    very much timely and up to the mark

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