FAISALABAD: Water shortage in Pakistan will increase to 31% of people’s needs by 2025 and this underlines the need for some tangible steps, including water usage charges and building of storages, to cope with the problem.
These were the views of speakers at a seminar arranged by the Department of Irrigation and Water Management Research Centre, University of Agriculture Faisalabad (UAF) in collaboration with the International Centre for Agricultural Research in Dry Areas (Icarda) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to observe World Water Day here on Friday.
International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Country Representative Dr Mahmood Akhtar Cheema pointed out that India was constructing 11 big dams but Pakistan was still in a fix about building of dams and a breakthrough was yet to be made.
“Owing to climate changes, glaciers are melting. And in the absence of water conservation methods, we are experiencing heavy floods, leading to loss of many lives and damage to agriculture,” he said.
Per capita water availability at the time of creation of Pakistan was 5,600 cubic metres, but it currently stands at only 1,000 cubic metres, placing Pakistan among water-scarce countries. To tackle the situation, Cheema suggested that the government should apply reasonable water usage charges to discourage wastage of the resource.
Icarda Country Head Dr Abdul Majeed emphasised the importance of promoting water conservation techniques by sensitising people and taking fruitful measures. He said Icarda’s strategy combined continuity with change, addressing current problems while expanding focus to emerging challenges such as climate change and desertification.
South Asian Conservation Agriculture Network’s Dr Mushtaq Ahmad Gill was of the view that Pakistan was wasting two-third of its water by following traditional conservation methods and agricultural practices.
Citing examples, he said per capita water availability in the US was 6,000 cubic metres, in Australia 5,500 cubic metres and in China 2,200 cubic metres. In Pakistan, it is only 1,000 cubic metres, posing a threat to people’s lives.
He expressed concern that no authority was working for saving groundwater and suggested that off-channel water reservoirs should be set up to preserve flood water and prevent loss to life and property. “This (saved) water can be used later,” he stressed.
He said Punjab had around 1.3 million tube wells to pump out groundwater, which is bringing down the water level. Eighty per cent of the tube wells were being run on diesel, increasing the cost manifold and requiring application of alternative methods to face the situation, he suggested.
UAF Acting Vice Chancellor Dr Iqbal Zafar said water availability in 2025 would stand at around 100 million acre feet compared to the need of 135 MAF. He stressed the need for increasing water storage capacity to save people’s lives as water resources were shrinking and population was growing rapidly.
To meet the demand for water, he called for kicking off a comprehensive awareness drive to educate people about benefits of judicious consumption and consequences of wastage.
Professor Dr Allah Buksh was of the view that big dams like Kalabagh should be built to save water for coming generations and application of techniques of efficient use of water was the need of the hour to combat water scarcity.