It is indeed worrying that Pakistan is facing an acute water shortage, and is expected to only worsen owing to the adverse effects of climatic change, mismanagement of water resources and increasingly hostile attitude of India towards upper-riparian areas. A conflict on the distribution of water resources by four provinces adds to the looming water crisis.
Pakistan is recognised as an arid country whereby the annual rainfall is recorded to be less than 224mm per year and relies heavily on a yearly influx into the Indus River System. The scenario of recent projection of Indus River System Authority (IRSA) of about 35 percent water shortage for the ongoing Kharif season (April till November) is indeed dismal. It is expected to lead to unfortunate consequences for agriculture, and national economy of Pakistan.
Other predictions of IRSA portray a gloomy picture of looming water crisis in the agricultural sector. A 40 percent water shortage is forecasted to exist at the time of sowing of Kharif crops, which will gradually diminish the area under cultivation. Kharif crops include cotton, sugarcane, maize, and rice. The estimates of IRSA might not come true as summer season has set in earlier than usual, which has led to melting of snow-capped mountains at a faster pace at the commencement of Kharif season.
The challenge of the water crisis forecasted by IRSA needs to be addressed with hindsight by the farming community, custodians of water management and food industry. The provincial governments should establish operational efficiency to cater to the needs of the farming community. However, at present, the fair and required distribution of the river water remains a severe bone of contention. This complemented with the failure of the government to formulate an effective strategy for minimization of water wastage and creating water storage facilities as well as its inability to employ novel agricultural techniques is likely to thwart the produce of Kharif crops.
It is binding on the government to pay serious heed to the aforementioned crisis by effective implementation of advanced agricultural tools, using high-yielding varieties of seeds and crops, applying research and extension strategies, and attracting public funding for the improvement of physical infrastructure. In addition, special consideration should be paid to desilt the existing dams to increase their storage capacity, construct more dams and to reduce the political conflicts. In order to reduce the water seepage in the harvesting structures, there is a need to employ efficient and responsible workers, who can maintain a vigilant surveillance. The farmers should be well-motivated to perform their cultivating tasks efficiently. To improve and enhance the water capacity the existing irrigation system should be upgraded. In a nutshell, proactive strategies should be formulated to ensure water security for the agricultural sector by keeping a vigilant eye on the personnel running the system.
The writer is a Lahore-based blogger and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org