“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

Editorial

Security policy unveiled
Updated 17 Jan, 2022

Security policy unveiled

PAKISTAN’S freshly unveiled National Security Policy has broadened the traditional concept and included economic...
Bold decisions
Updated 17 Jan, 2022

Bold decisions

IT is a double blow within a matter of days. The Islamabad High Court’s order last week to demolish a navy golf...
17 Jan, 2022

Rohingya camp blaze

A HUGE blaze in a refugee camp housing members of the Rohingya community in Bangladesh last week has left up to ...
16 Jan, 2022

Omicron threat

AS Pakistan grapples with the fifth coronavirus wave fuelled by the Omicron variant, the state must take timely...
Updated 16 Jan, 2022

Grim picture

There is much the govt can do to create an environment free of repression and coercion so that democracy is strengthened.
16 Jan, 2022

Larkana jail unrest

THAT Larkana Central Prison authorities had to resort to the excuse of “cleaning the jail” to shift 13 dangerous...