Water resources

September 26, 2021

Karachi needs about 600 million gallons of water per day, but gets only 435 million

Water  resources

Pakistan has seen its fair share of development issues, from a shaky economy to social disturbances. However, a much scarier issue on the horizon is resource management. More specifically, the concurrent water crisis the country’s been seeing since its inception seems to be going south.

To demonstrate the gravity of the situation, let’s take a look at an example. Zubaida, a middle-aged woman from a humble middle class home living in the sweet city of Bahawalpur, has to wake up in the wee hours of the morning to fill up the water tankee of her house. If she doesn’t, her home will not have water to use for the entire day. If one goes further south to the metropolitan city of Karachi, most people do not have access to clean drinking water. With an unofficial population size of 15 million, it needs about 600 million gallons of water per day, but the city currently receives only about 435 million. If, in a certain household in Pakistan, one can get up and drink a glass of clean water, they are evidently more privileged than almost 70 percent of the nation.

In the last two years, water scarcity has grown at a terrifying rate. The country’s storage supply is limited at 30-days, which is way below the 1,000-day supply standard. But the issue isn’t simply that we’ve suddenly grown short on water. It is in fact, the product of the accumulation of other factors: primarily, water management (which includes the misuse of water), water contamination over the years, regional conflicts with India, droughts occurring in the southern area and a general lack of regard for sustainability. This crisis is also denoted to the lack of management of existing dams and reservoirs, traditional and outdated canal and barrage systems, as well as the mismanagement of current water resources and flaws in existing policies.

Sindhi and Baloch farmers have been reported to have started blocking highways, as a protest for not being given their fair share from the Indus River. Punjab, the richest and most politically dominant province, has always been criticised for taking an unfair amount of resources away from other provinces.

The effects have been felt all over the country. Pakistan has an agrarian economy, therefore, the economic growth is at a great risk if water shortage hits and kills the regular percentage of crops harvested. This has both rural and urban implications. With the consistent drop in water availability per person, coupled with rapid overpopulation, food supplies for every individual are also seeing a decline, which gives rise to another issue regarding food security.

Another issue this had brought forward is that of provincial dispute that’ll lead to more internal disturbances. Sindhi and Baloch farmers have been reported to have started blocking highways, as a protest for not being given their fair share from the Indus River. Punjab, the richest and most politically dominant province, has always been criticised for taking an unfair amount of resources away from other provinces. However, the south of this province is seemingly denied access to clean water, illustrating a theme of mistrust with the government. Moreover, a rapid climate change is only going to worsen the situation for Pakistan and its water supply.

When discussing water resources, a vital point of discussion is the historic Indus Water Treaty. Signed in 1960, it allocates the Western Rivers (Indus, Jhelum, Chenab) to Pakistan and the Eastern Rivers (Ravi, Beas, Sutlej) to India. India, on many occasions, has breached the Indus Water Treaty and has built major dams on the Chenab and Jhelum rivers, blocking out water supply to Pakistan.


The writer is a data analyst at Intellia adviser and has previously worked at the Institute for   Development and Economic Alternatives.   She can be reached at [email protected]

Water resources