THIS is with reference to the report ‘Sindh on the verge of running dry’ (May 12). As Sindh is running short of water, its population, agriculture and livestock are under a severe threat.
However, the crisis is not confined to Sindh alone. The entire Pakistan is in the throes of severe water shortages. That is the main reason why Sindh is being hit hard by the domino effect of water shortage that actually started several years ago.
Our institutions lack the requisite competence to handle water issues in a transparent and proper manner. The authorities, like the Indus River System Authority (Irsa), do not have competent officials, while water theft that is depriving people of whatever water is available is adding insult to injury.
Only influential people have the ‘right to irrigate’ their lands. The rest have to wait and see if there is still water left for their irrigation needs. This blatant theft by the elite is at the expense of public interest.
There is no denying the fact that the country has been plagued by feudal culture which is one of the major reasons for our tale of sorrows. A major chunk of our land is concentrated in a few hands in the country, while the rest of the population has to make do with the remaining land.
To make matters worse, water is forcibly diverted to the agricultural land belonging to the feudal lords, leaving the rest to wait and watch in agony.
Although there are environmental issues that aggravate the issue of water scarcity, gross mismanagement, absence of right people in the right place and extreme disparity in water distribution have added to the magnitude and scale of the crisis.
Considering the problems that have cropped up owing to lack of seriousness on the part of those at the helm of national affairs, planning and rampant corruption within the system, the population of the people have to bear the brunt, with water shortage in Sindh’s barrages and canals having gone well past the 50 per cent mark.
The crisis, beyond the shadow of a doubt, is of grand proportions, and, predictably, farmers and the poor segments of Sindh are expected to suffer the fallout of the wrongs perpetrated by those who wield power.
Even if some steps are taken to overcome the water crisis, it is yet to be seen how this responsibility is undertaken that is solely in the hands of the corrupt.
It is regrettable that we are always indolent when it comes to tackling serious crisis like the present one, and the population at large pays for this indifference.
While we already have a fragile economy, this crisis will only compound our problems. Pakistan counts on agriculture which accounts for 19pc of GDP, yet the agriculture sector is the most neglected one.
This crisis in Sindh must serve as a wake-up call for the other provinces, which should adopt urgent measures like water conservation, go for fair and equitable water distribution among the federating units, and show a resolute political will to avert the impending danger of a drought.
A United Nations report has stated that Pakistan is all set to experience a drought by the year 2025. It is high time the government and its various agencies took the matter seriously, taking all the provinces on board in the larger interest of the country.
Abdul Qadeer Seelro
Published in Dawn, May 18th, 2022