Umair Jalali talks about a serious issue
Pakistan is experiencing high levels of Excessive heat that is not only causing extreme discomfiture to the people but is also very badly affecting the water resources of the country. The hot weather has brought about dry weather that has given rise to steep water shortages and such a situation may become very harmful to an agriculture-reliant country like Pakistan. The long dry spell is now reported to have reduced almost 26 per cent the snowfall during the winter that resulted in 40 per cent less water for the crucial Kharif season that has registered reduction of almost 12 per cent as such reduction usually recorded over the last many years remained in the range of 14 per cent.
The situation has gone from bad to worse owing to the fact that snow did not melt despite early onset of hot weather in March of this year that drained both Tarbela and Mangla dams. The impact of such difficulty is already felt on a wider scale as already the wheat output came out shriveled along with fears that same issue would be experienced by cotton and rice production and if that happens then it would be disastrous not only for food security but will also adversely affect main Pakistani exports of textiles. More worryingly, the weather extremities have revived discord between Punjab and Sindh owing to the supply of water with Sindh ferociously complaining about less water received by Sindh, the lower riparian of Indus Waters system.
The consistent hot weather has very badly affected the water situation of the country as Pakistan is already considered to be water scarce with the fears expressed that it may run dry by 2040. It is a pity to learn that the official authorities appear to show little concern about this issue that has the potential of morphing into a broader food, economic and national security issue if corrective measures are not taken forthwith. The authorities dealing with matters related to water are paying little or no attention to the crucial factors related to water conservation, governance, storage and usage strategies. The urgency of the situation is unfortunately not appropriately registered by the people that are responsible for tackling the looming water crisis.
Almost all parts of the country are experiencing extremely harsh heat with Sindh being in its grip with many areas surpassing 50 degrees Celsius making many farmers openly express fears about the fate of his sugarcane and cotton crops as one-third of the plants are drying up due to the unavailability of water from canals. Sindh is rich in production of cereals, mangoes, peppers, cotton, rice, wheat, and sugarcane among others but due to water shortage the already standing products are in crisis whereas sowing of rice is facing delay. Pakistan ranks 5th in the world in producing mangoes but this year severe water shortages and rising temperatures are expected to take a toll on the production of the juicy fruit.
The persistent hot weather has drastically reduced water supplies to the country. Almost all tributaries of the Indus River, the main water life-line of Pakistan are gradually drying up and it is reported that at one point they had to go up the Kabul River and re-enter the Indus at Attock. Between Attock and Kalabagh, as they came to Punjab, the river shrunk to a trickle and at Tarbela one can witness the practically dead level of water in these massive water reservoirs. In Sindh, the Indus became wide and shallow with sand beds in the middle of the river yet instead of enjoying what could have been a three-hour boat ride, now riders have to push the boat as if in a desert for a good eight hours until they were able to find at least six feet of water and get into the raft and sail again. But even more than the river, it was the delta, the rafters said, that seemed to be on its deathbed.
Water Shortage is also leading to many health issues including water-borne disease, heatstroke, and kidney issues among the residents of the country. According to a report from the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), an estimated 70 per cent of households in Pakistan drink bacterially contaminated water. The current heatwave has worsened the situation. A worse outbreak of cholera in Balochistan left several kids killed and thousands of others infected and stomach diseases in Punjab and Sindh occurred due to drinking contaminated water. In the Cholistan desert of Punjab, over 50 cattle perished due to water shortage while wildlife is also affected. Cholistan is already a very poor area but what happened this year has resulted in producing emaciated children owing to extreme malnutrition. The water shortage led by extreme weather conditions is also expected to result in a food shortage in Pakistan as the area of cultivation and annual yield is facing a decrease with every coming year. TW