Today, the entire world faces an acute water shortage. According to some analysts, it is global warming which is to blame for this. There is a universal consensus that this catastrophe has been brought about because of the impact of humans on the environment. Sensible nations are adopting measures to conserve scarce water resources. Unfortunately, Pakistan has been caught on the wrong foot, it has neither constructed large dams, nor built water reservoirs. As a consequence, it is likely to face a severe drought by 2025.Of all the provinces, Balochistan is the worst hit. Only half a century ago, this mineral rich province had flowing streams, karez and underground wells which were deemed adequate. Today, lack of rain and over exploitation has dried up the streams and karez. In Balochistan, annual precipitation ranges from 50 to 500mm, as much of it lies outside the monsoon zone. Women have to walk miles each day to fetch a single container of water to meet their families’ needs. The water is obtained from ponds and sometimes becomes extremely brackish, causing many water-borne diseases. According to reports, 62 percent of Balochistan is deprived of safe drinking water and more than 58 percent of it’s land is uncultivable due to water scarcity.The situation in Balochistan is quite dire. Gross negligence and half-hearted attempts to stem the rot have led to a crisis situation. The government installed a large number of tube wells but did not build any sizable dams. Neither did they take any action against illegal boring for water, which dropped the water table further. Currently, over 6,000 tube wells are lifting water from districts across the province. In addition to this, the rising population has exacerbated the problem of water scarcity. China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) commences from the deep Sea Port of Gwadar and meanders through most of Balochistan. Chinese organisations have tried to help the local residents of Gwadar to alleviate the shortage of water but the problem necessitates long term planning and stringent measures. Geological experts have issued warning bells that due to a drop in seawater level; the land on which the provincial capital Quetta lies is sinking in by 10 centimetres.Coastal regions require desalination plants while the local population has to be taught water discipline along with better water management by government agencies. None of this should be taken lightly. The water shortage in Balochistan merits being tackled on a war footingAccording to the Quetta Water and Sanitation Authority (QWASA), the city has a daily demand of 50 million gallons of water. However, the authority is only able to supply 30 million gallons leaving a shortage of 20 million gallons of water daily. The authority has installed around 417 tube wells in the provincial capital, of which nearly 100 are not functional. Some of the measures adopted are the construction of over 100 dams in Balochistan. One of them, Mangi Dam located in Ziarat, which will take another two years to become operational, will provide Quetta with 80 million gallons of water daily and should help solve the water crisis in the area for a short period of time. Earlier this year, Senate’s Standing Committee on Planning, Development and Reforms informed that 22 dams in Balochistan have been completed, while another 26 are near completion. However, these dams are small in size and will not alleviate the water shortage, which is of immense proportions.To stop people from migrating from the province due to water shortage, the government should formulate a contingent water policy. Along with this, it should build more dams and take initiatives to recharge underground water otherwise CPEC will also be at risk.The water shortage and low rainfall in Balochistan’s far flung areas has led to people drinking from unsafe water sources, particularly in the Awaran District. This has led to more water borne diseases and deaths. This particular district also had to bear the brunt of a devastating earthquake and is infested with anti-state elements, who leave no stone unturned in propagating the failures of the Pakistani state. The water shortage in this area is being portrayed by Baloch Sun Nationalists (BSNs) as a deliberate effort by the Pakistan military to eject locals from villages in order to deny support to BSNs in their strongholds.The truth is the exact opposite, as the Frontier Constabulary (FC) has initiated a timely response by establishing medical camps in the affected areas. Moreover, newly commissioned officers of the Pakistan Army from the drought affected areas are being temporarily attached with these camps to instil confidence amongst the local population.Coastal regions require desalination plants while the local population has to be taught water discipline along with better water management by government agencies. None of this should be taken lightly. The water shortage in Balochistan merits being tackled on a war footing.Delaying the merger till the very end of the outgoing national and provincial assembles’ tenure has left some gaping holesPublished in Daily Times, June 9th 2018.