IMF and UNDP recently issued a report in which Pakistan ranks third amongst the countries facing acute water shortage. As a result, the country will reach absolute water scarcity till 2025 if necessary steps are not ensured. This is an alarming situation, but it has been so for a long time. The Indus Water Treaty was signed in 1960. As a result, Pakistan built 2 major dams during the 60s and 70s. These dams were funded by both the World Bank and Government of Pakistan. Many other small hydroelectric plants and dams were also constructed during this time. UNDP informed Pakistan that it had touched the ‘water stress line’ in 1990 but political leaders paid no heed . The 2 main dams and other small hydroelectric plants constructed during 1960s (Mangla) and 70s (Tarbela) were enough to meet the population need till 2000. In 1979, the government received a grant of $25 million from the UNDP for the construction of Kalabagh dam. The issue was politicised after the execution of the then PM Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. Various arguments were put forward for opposition of the dams, including that it might cause drought in Sindh and flooding in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. Nevertheless, the WB kept on working on the dam project till 1986, when the project was finally put on hold; because of increasing political resistance. During the 1990s and early 2000s, implementation of the dam project was halted due to increasing opposition from Sindh, KPK and Balochistan. After that the governments of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PMLN) also addressed water and electricity problems in their speeches and manifestos but never did anything significant to practically implement it. In comparison to Pakistan, India has now constructed over 4500 large, medium and small dams. China has over 85,000 dams, while Pakistan only has 153 small and medium dams, including the 2 aforementioned larger ones. We keep on blaming India that it is building dams on our waters and that is reason why Pakistan is running dry. The fact of the matter is that we are wasting 35 MAF of water; around 40 percent of the water we receive from the rivers and it is going straight in the Arabian Sea so India has all the right to conserve this water for itself. Now, the newly-elected government lead by Prime Minister Imran Khan is in charge and remains adamant to solve the crisis at hand. Khan highlighted the water crisis in his first address to the nation and has stood his ground firmly to solve the problem. He addressed the Pakistanis on September 7 again, reiterating his stance on the water issues. Khan has asked every Pakistani, including the overseas Pakistanis to donate generously to the Dam Fund (1000$) and has assured the masses to trust him with their money as this matter has to be resolved collectively and urgently. This is not the first time the government has asked the people to contribute to the economy. The question is that is it possible to crowd source a major dam in the country? How feasible this scheme may be? Back in 2005, the then president General (retd) Pervaiz Musharraf had created a ‘President Relief Fund’ after the devastating earthquake that year. People began to contribute and many companies contributed as well until interest in the matter began to fade out. After that, no one knows what happened with the money. An average Pakistani wastes about 40 gallons of water when washing a single car and a gallon of water every time he brushes his teeth. The general public needs to be aware of the consequences of wasting water Did it actually reach the needy or did it stay in the hands of our leaders? There is no accountability for that. Another time the PML-N government initiated a ‘qarz utaro, mulk sunwaro’ scheme late in the 1990s. People contributed again but no one knows where the money went. It was never spent on its actual purpose. What is different this time then; people may ask? Well for once, Imran Khan has himself vowed to take care of this money and personally make sure that the money reaches its desired destination. He has given his personal examples of Namal University and Shukat Khanam where people did not only contribute; they could also see the results of their contributions. The previous governments have had a history of alleged corruption and mismanagement. Imran Khan has vowed that his government will prove itself to be otherwise. He has no history of corruption and has always claimed that he will always be available for accountability. This is something that no leader has done before. None of our previous political leaders had presented themselves for accountability and Imran Khan has been proven by the Supreme Court of Pakistan that there are no corruption charges against him. Another noteworthy point is that the Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Saqib Nisar has taken the matter in his own hands as well. He will oversee the project himself and will personally make sure that the funds are allocated properly. This is an additional check which will make sure that the funds are managed properly and honestly. Now, apart from contributing generously to the dam fund as Imran Khan has proposed, we should also analyse our actions at the grass root level. The masses need to be educated about water conservation. There is no water management policy and no proper arrangement of water storage in the country. An average Pakistani wastes about 40 gallons of water when washing a single car and a gallon of water every time he brushes his teeth. The general public needs to be aware of the consequences of wasting water. Pakistan is an agricultural country and has the 4th highest rate of water use in the world. We are a water intensive country where a huge chunk of our water is used in irrigation. But because there is no water saving mechanisms in the country, 60% of this water is wasted before it actually reaches the fields. We can apply many measures in our daily lives to save water. Many of them are quite basic, but like tiny droplets make an ocean, every little step that we take towards water conservation counts. We need to turn off the faucet when brushing our teeth. This seems like a trivial task but by doing this we can save up to 6 litres of water every time. We need to diversify our water resources. And one way we can do that is by installing rain barrels in our homes to collect rain water. This water can easily be used to water plants and clean outdoors. Many countries like Australia have fixed rain barrels in their homes and it is highly recommended to water plants with that water. Moreover, we can also cut water use by 33 percent if water plants manually instead of using automatic sprinklers. We need to stop wasting our food. Apart from the fact that we need to realise that more than half of our country can not afford a basic meal, a lot of water is used in the irrigation. Wasting less food can be able to preserve water in the long run. Water Recycling Plants need to be constructed so that they can conserve and use recycled water in irrigation. One reason there is a lot of water wastage in the country is because the water price is not fixed. Everywhere in the world, water is being sold on water meter readings. Price should also be charged as per the metre readings in our country as it will make people realise the value of water. Some of these steps may seem trivial and some may seem controversial, but the fact of the matter is that we need to solve our water problem immediately. We are already 20 years late in resolving this issue. Hence, we need to get past the blame game and move forward otherwise Pakistan will have no water in just 7 years. The writer is a graduate of Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) and is based in Sydney, Australia Published in Daily Times, September 26th 2018.