FOR the past couple of weeks, news reports have been indicating an acute water shortage in the country. According to officials, water supplies in the past 10 days have been the lowest in the past five years — possibly more — as the water level in the two largest dams — Tarbela and Mangla — has been at dead level since February. The Tarbela Dam reached dead level on Feb 22, while the Mangla Dam has now reached less than 1pc of its total capacity. Consequently, the Kharif season has begun with at least a 40pc water shortage, giving rise to fears of a severe drought as the monsoons are still a couple of months away. The Sukkur and Kotri barrages, whose command areas are mainly dependent on the Tarbela Dam, have also reported more than a 40pc reduction in the volume of irrigation water. This month, a shortage of nearly 42pc and 37pc has been reported in Sindh’s Nara and Rohri canals respectively, while a shortage of up to 53pc was recorded at Kotri.
According to officials, the crisis has been engendered by an unpredictable dry spell, which has resulted in 26pc less snowfall in the winter months and no rainfall since March. Moreover, despite the early onset of summer this year, snow hasn’t melted at a comparable pace, because most of the snowfall took place at higher altitudes. This disturbing situation should not come as a surprise. Global bodies have been warning for some time that, by 2025, Pakistan would be facing a serious shortage of water on account of shifting rain patterns resulting from climate change, poor management of water resources and an outdated transmission infrastructure. The authorities need to realise that water scarcity is perhaps the foremost national challenge, costing the national exchequer nearly $12bn a year and having grave implications for the country’s overall food and economic security. The authorities need to immediately take stock of the situation and take swift measures to upgrade and manage the country’s water distribution system while also finding innovative ways of storing groundwater.
Published in Dawn, April 12th, 2022