“WATER, water, everywhere/ Nor any drop to drink” goes one of the most well-known lines in English literature. Contemporary reality, which suggests an irony well beyond the lament of the ancient mariner in Coleridge’s poem, is compounded. Even as there is a dire shortage of potable water for billions, it is worsened by the fact that while climate change has led to unprecedented rates of rainfall and consequent flooding, several countries thus affected lack the infrastructure to store this excess water — even while being water-stressed. Recently, the UN released a major report on the global state and management of water resources. Titled The State of Climate Services 2021: Water, the research was the result of a collaborative effort between organisations including the UN World Meteorological Organisation, international development agencies and scientific institutions. Of the many sobering points it had to make was that the number of people worldwide with inadequate access to water stands currently at 2.3bn, and will top 5bn by the year 2050; in sub-Saharan Africa, females spend an estimated 40bn hours a year harvesting water; and while flooding impacted the South and Southeast Asian regions particularly badly last year, many of the countries affected — including Pakistan and India — do not have the capacity to store that extra water for later use. “We need to wake up to the looming water crisis,” said WMO Secretary General Petteri Taalas. “Time is not on our side.”

According to data, last year in India, flooding was the third deadliest event of the year; the situation in Pakistan was equally bad. Both these countries feature in a research list of 17 countries where water scarcity is “extremely high” (Pakistan is ranked at 14, and India at 13) and in which Qatar takes the first place as the world’s most water-starved country. The lesson for South Asia is as clear as it can be: given the intertwined nature of the river systems of Pakistan and India, solutions must be found and hard agreements signed to sort out points of contention such and upper- and lower-riparian rights, the methods (such as dams) to harvest water sources including rainfall and glacier-melt, and at all costs to avoid ‘water wars’ that would prove mutually ruinous. Contemporary realities must be addressed, including, perhaps, the minutiae of the Indus Waters Treaty over which India still drags its heels. As the UN warned, time is not on our side.

Published in Dawn, October 12th, 2021

Opinion

Law & processions
16 Oct 2021

Law & processions

It is up to the police to impose reasonable conditions on a procession.
Is the party over?
Updated 16 Oct 2021

Is the party over?

Many in PTI are concerned how they can hang on till the next elections.
The last fortress
Updated 16 Oct 2021

The last fortress

The state wants to use the social media rules to trample on the right to freedom of speech.
Reopening under Covid
15 Oct 2021

Reopening under Covid

It will be a challenge to deal with all students returning to classrooms and maintaining SOPs.

Editorial

Diminishing freedom
Updated 16 Oct 2021

Diminishing freedom

DESPITE the serious reservations of digital rights activists and tech companies, the federal government has...
16 Oct 2021

Dirty politics

IN her outburst against Prime Minister Imran Khan this week, PML-N leader Maryam Nawaz may not have taken names but...
16 Oct 2021

Decreasing emissions

THE announcement by SAPM on Climate Change Malik Amin Aslam that carbon emissions in the country came down by 9pc...
No need for NAB
Updated 15 Oct 2021

No need for NAB

THE National Accountability Bureau has sent instructions to its regional bureaus to stop processing cases that fall...
Forced conversions
Updated 15 Oct 2021

Forced conversions

THE majoritarian view has once again prevailed in the matter of bringing about legislation against forced conversion...
15 Oct 2021

Transgender rights

MEMBERS of the transgender community in the country are often at the receiving end of both their families’ and...