Gone are the days when distraught date growers would hang pendants to palm trees to save them from the unfortunate adverse effect of heavy and frequent monsoon rains — causing the dates to fall.Since a few years now, monsoon has adopted an abnormal pattern making poor farmers long for even a little drizzle. Balochistan is facing an acute water shortage. If this situation persists, it is likely to face drought-like conditions in the near future and may result in mass displacement. People are so desperate that special prayers for rain are organised almost everywhere in the province. Amid the election season, there is great hullaballoo for addressing the water crisis by constructing new dams. Balochistan is emerging as the most water-stressed province. The rivers are not perennial in the area and generally flow only during the rainy seasons.Some of the larger rivers, such as the Zhob, Loralai, Pishin Lora, Hingol, Porali and Hub are perennial only at their lower ends, and the volume of water is small except in the rainy season. Some rivers, for example, Bolan, flow intermittently above and below ground and disappear underground in limestone regions. If the current trend of water extraction continues, it is feared that around 60 per cent of aquifers in Balochistan will be in the critical state by 2030Balochistan is blessed with extensive groundwater resources. Over 90 per cent of water-related schemes in the province are dependent on underground water. But groundwater is being extracted recklessly. The water levels are depleting at a significant rate, in some areas even more than one metre per annum, especially in the Pishin-Lora Basin. Zhob and Nari river basins are not available for further groundwater development. The depletion of the water table is a matter of great concern. Depleting groundwater reservoirs, paired with climate changes such as rising temperatures, could further exacerbate water scarcity in the province.On the other hand, there has been an explosive growth of private tube-wells installed in farms across Balochistan during the last three decades due to a lack of reliable surface irrigation. The governmental subsidisation of electricity for pumping in Musharraf’s era as a relief to farmers contributed to an increase in groundwater use. People started using water pumping unwisely without any precautions because they only had to pay a fixed nominal charge. This plan produced the short-term benefits of increasing food production. However, the ill-conceived policy had a long-term cost of underground water depletion. There is a dire need for water management on the part of the government and NGOs. If steps aren’t taken in time, there will be adverse implications for the province. If the current trend of water extraction continues, it is feared that around 60 per cent of aquifers in Balochistan will be in the critical state by 2030. Depleting underground reservoirs would aggravate Balochistan’s employment situation as most of the population is associated with the agriculture sector.Micro-irrigation systems like drip-irrigation, rather than flood irrigation, need to be introduced widely to cope with the problem of water shortage in fruit growing areas of the province. Additionally, the growing of high delta crops needs to be discouraged.There is a lack of much-needed seriousness on the part of the provincial government. This oversight is most evident through inaction: despite being rain starved, not a single dam has been constructed in Washuk district, which spreads over 29,510 sq km, and Panjgore district, which spreads over area 16,891 sq km.The federal government, realising the acute shortage of water in Balochistan, has made a praiseworthy effort by embarking upon a comprehensive programme of 100 small dams to address the flood flow. But as far as the provincial government is concerned, it still seems to be in a deep slumber.The current situation of Gwadar is living proof of what is to come if the necessary steps are not taken. The tanker mafia is rampant, costing people huge amounts for the basic necessity. Water from Mirani dam, located in Kech district, through tankers is being supplied to Gwadar city and its surrounding population, but this dam hardly has water left for further supply. So far, the cultivation of crops through the said dam in Dasht area is at a halt, affecting thousands of households economically.The people of Balochistan will need to fight the apathy of the provincial government, and the election season is the perfect time to get their voices heard.The writer can be reached at mominali38@gmailcomPublished in Daily Times, July 1st 2018.