ISLAMABAD: Recent findings from the World Resource Institute’s (WRI) ‘Aqueduct Water Risk Atlas’ have shed light on a concerning global trend. According to the updated framework, Pakistan has been classified under the ‘high’ water stress category.

This categorisation is part of a broader revelation that by 2050, an estimated $70 trillion in GDP, equivalent to 31 per cent of the global GDP, will be vulnerable to high water stress. This marks a significant increase from the $15tr recorded in 2010. Notably, a substantial portion of this exposed GDP is concentrated in just four countries: India, Mexico, Egypt, and Turkiye, collectively accounting for more than half of the projected economic risk by 2050.

The data shows the world is facing an unprecedented water crisis, and the Water Risk Atlas finds that 25 countries — one quarter of the world’s population — are currently exposed to extremely high water stress annually. Globally four billion people, half of the world’s population are exposed to water stress for at least one month a year. By 2050 that number could be closer to 60pc, it says.

Water is central to meeting the world’s climate goals, feeding a growing population and meeting people’s basic needs for survival. But the world is failing to prioritize water issues. As countries push for a just transition away from fossil fuels, they must also transform how they manage water.

The world needs to urgently address the water crisis. Cost-effective solutions exist; now we need the political will and financial backing. Every level of government, communities and businesses must step up to build a water-secure future for all.

The 25 countries currently exposed to extremely high water stress annually, meaning they use over 80pc of their renewable water supply for irrigation, livestock, industry and domestic needs. Even a short-term drought puts these places in danger of running out of water and sometimes prompts governments to shut off the taps. This scenario plays out in many places around the world, such as England, India, Iran, Mexico, and South Africa.

According to the report, the five most water-stressed countries are Bahrain, Cyprus, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman and Qatar. The water stress in these countries is mostly driven by low supply, paired with demand from domestic, agricultural and industrial use.

The most water-stressed regions are the Middle East and North Africa, where 83pc of the population is exposed to extremely high water stress, and South Asia, where 74pc is exposed.

By 2050, an additional one billion people are expected to live with extremely high water stress, even if the world limits global temperature rises to 1.3°C to 2.4°C by 2100, an optimistic scenario.

Global water demand is projected to increase by 20pc to 25pc by 2050, while the number of watersheds facing high year-to-year variability, or less predictable water supplies, is expected to increase by 19pc.

For the Middle East and North Africa, this means 100pc of the population will live with extremely high water stress by 2050.

Published in Dawn, August 18th, 2023

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