“Damn the consequences” is one of the most spoken phrases and the most cherished and practised “tenet” of the people of this country. Over time, nations develop some habits that become a regular feature of their lives, and they continue to hold on to those come what may. The lives of Pakistanis are characterised by a habit of not taking up the gauntlet timely and always following the “damn the consequences” approach in all matters ranging from our ordinary daily chores to things of national importance, and continue to adhere to this nonchalant approach unless an issue spirals out of control. This approach is par for the course in this country both at individual and government levels. Our governments have long been accustomed to taking reactive not proactive measures notwithstanding how steep cost the people of the country have to pay for them. If one looks back at crises that haunted the country during the last two decades, it will dawn upon that those who were sitting at the helm of affairs remained laid-back until a full-blown crisis caught up the country. Just take one of such crises- power shortage. The nation had to endure it owing to the sheer negligence of the Musharraf administration. True to the national habit, the then government maintained a care-free approach towards brewing electricity shortage until it began to rear its ugly head and start haunting the nation. Now that alarm bells of another imminent crisis of unprecedented proportions- water scarcity- have been rung, the usual devil-may-care approach seems to be at play yet again. Reports by the United Nations Development Fund (UNDP) and the Pakistan Council of Research have alerted that the country will reach absolute water scarcity by the year 2025. The country is on its way to becoming the most water-stressed country in the region by 2040, according to the report. However, all such SOS calls have fallen on deaf ears and we have closed our eyes like a pigeon and assumed that the cat does not exist. Our governments have long been accustomed to taking reactive not proactive measures notwithstanding how steep cost the people of the country have to pay for them. Although successive governments are responsible for creating this hellish situation and not taking timely measures in this regard yet this does not shrug the general public off as we have also chipped in bringing the country to the juncture where it is teetering on the edge of drought. At the time of independence, the country was counted among the water-abundant countries with per-capita availability of water of more than 5000 cubic meters. However, to our chagrin, it has fallen to 1000 cubic meters now, but even then, we are pronouncing our favourite three words–“damn the consequences.” Resultingly, we have not woken up to the severity of the issue and ruthlessly squandered this precious resource in one way or another. In homes, people leave the water running when even not needed. Similarly, we do not bother to have pipe leaks and plumbing problems fixed for far too long, resulting in wastage of water. Then our penchant for vehicle washing either by self or at commercial facilities showcases how mercilessly we are wasting it. According to an estimate, a whopping 200 gallons of water get wasted with every car wash. In a bid to make the people realise the looming water crisis, the German Ambassador to Pakistan, Martin Kobler, back in 2018, posted a picture on Twitter while washing his car using only one bucket. He took to Twitter and wrote, “Pakistan ranks third amongst countries facing water shortage. One major reason is excessive use.” This shows that he seems to be more concerned about water insecurity in Pakistan than many of us. Apart from wastage of water at home, the outdated practice of crop irrigation through flooding plays havoc with not only waters coming from canal system but also fast eroding aquifer as 80 pc of crop area is irrigated through pumping of groundwater. Almost 40 pc of water goes to waste due to the decades-old flooding methods. Despite being wary of this massive loss of water, neither the government nor farmers are ready to phase out this method. Farmers seem reluctant to embrace modern irrigation techniques largely by conceiving this as a costly endeavour. This attitude on the part of farmers yet again reminds us of our national habit of opting for carefree and short-sighted decisions. They are either unaware or simply choose to look another way that modern irrigation techniques such as the drip method could save 60 pc of their electricity and diesel costs, let alone help conserve water for future generations. The government also did nothing to rope farmers to switch to the new irrigation system. This speaks volumes of our national habit of a casual approach towards issues that need to be responded to at war-footing. It is about time to shrug this approach off at least for now because the path we are treading would lead towards an abyss. Both the government and people should read the writing on the wall and play their due role in averting this fast approaching crisis. For the government, it would do well to sensitise citizens on the efficient use of water as the country has the world’s fourth-highest use. Provincial governments need to come up with strategies to make the farmers round to switch to modern irrigation methods. For this, farmers can be incentivised by offering them subsidies on the purchase of Drip and Sprinkler irrigation related equipment. Also, the government must put a complete ban on the use of freshwater for vehicle washing at commercial car washing facilities; instead, they are made to use only recycled water for this purpose. For the general public, we must shun our habit of squandering water. A survey conducted by a reputed organisation shows that we can save 30 million acre-foot or ten trillion gallons of water per anum if we start using water efficiently at homes. If we continue with the as-the-usual- business and do not change our attitude, the time is not far when we would be struggling to find even a single drop of water to drink. And human beings, as in the words of Anatol Lieven, “can survive for centuries without democracy even without much security, but they cannot survive more than three days without water.” The writer is based in Chiniot.