South Asia’s Water Dilemma

Via Eurasia Review, an interesting look at South Asia’s water challenges:

Water is the most necessary constituent for the survival of living things on earth. Without water nothing can exist; it is the most precious gift of nature. Apart from the drinking usage, it is also vital for the economic and agricultural development of any country. The usage of water can be separated into three main types; i.e. domestic consumption, commercial/industrial and usage for land irrigation purposes. But the growing population, industrial, agricultural and domestic uses and the natural calamities in shape of melting glaciers is causing immense environmental degradation.

Pakistan is an agrarian economy and from the period of its very inception, keeping in mind the fact of agro-economy the country has profoundly invested in water engineering projects to establish the world’s largest gravity-driven irrigation network on the Indus River System. Apart from fulfilling a huge section of the country’s energy needs from hydropower installations, the system irrigates about 14 million hectares of cultivated land and ropes the farming sector to contribute only ¼ to national GDP. Like many other natural resources, Pakistan is also self sufficient in water resources, but unluckily due to the mismanagement of water resources, the country often faces either water scarcity or heavy floods on its soil.

The irrigated agriculture in Pakistan is under colossal stress because of rising challenges of increased demand for food commodities due to a rapidly growing population. This is mainly due to the reason that supply side greatly suffers because of unfavorable conditions of the cultivating of crops on peak season. The water shortage factors being its main cause, the expected output fails to meet the required needs, therefore, the demand side escalates with greater force.

The water issue of Pakistan is as old as the country itself. In a period of less than one year of its inception, on 1 April 1948, India stopped the flow of Madhupur and Ferozepur Head work which was awarded to Pakistan under Radcliff award. Consequently, Pakistan having no other option to keep up with its very survivability, mobilized the troops and the conflict resulted in the shape of capturing parts of Kashmir territory by the both sides. And India gained access in the catchment areas of the whole of the Indus River System. India being at the upper riparian never left the tactics of exploitation and the water crisis became an issue of Pakistan’s very survival meanwhile, both the states agreed to resolve the issue through independent observer of the World Bank and Indus Water Treaty was signed in 1960.

The recent history of floods in Pakistan specially from 2010 are mainly due to the reason when India gets more than enough water in monsoon season it spills into the rivers in Pakistan. And when the Pakistani farmers need water for cultivating their lands, India deprives Pakistan of its due water proportion. Such steps nurture further hostility between two nuclear-armed neighbors who already having bitter experiences of wars and disputes. The Indus Water Treaty under auspices of the World Bank decided the allocation of the Ravi, Sutlej and Beas to India and Indus, Jhelum, Chenab to Pakistan. These three rivers constitute 75 percent of the flow of the whole Indus river system. The Indus Water Treaty allows India only under specified situation to tap the water of three rivers allocated to Pakistan. But often India tries to obstruct the flow of River Jhelum through the building Wullar Barrage and Tulbul Navigation Project. The project will greatly affect Pakistan’s Mangla Dam and needs of fresh water reservoirs likewise the Baghliar Dam project of India is already adding to Pakistan’s water shortage miseries.

The water issue is gradually becoming the central point in the state to state relationship. The growing water quarrel has made South Asia a water-stressed region with prompting conflicts. The growing population, agriculture and industrial usage results in water deficiency. The issue of water utilization and building dams is becoming a great matter of concern and resulting in conflicts between upper and lower riparian states. Pakistan is one of the world’s nearly arid countries where the overall annual rainfall ratio is not more than 240mm. The country has very limited water resources with a storage capacity of maximum 30 days however, due to the inefficient water flow infrastructures the country often gets troubled either by shortage or by the floods. The source of the problem lies in improper usage of existing water resources. The water is frequently mismanaged and wasted which results in the scarcity. For Pakistan it is need of the hour to build more water storage projects and maintenance of the old river banks so that the water keeps proper flow and address the better demand-side management to resolve the water dilemma.

This entry was posted on Friday, September 26th, 2014 at 4:52 am and is filed under Pakistan.  You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.  Both comments and pings are currently closed. 

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