Defining the Geopolitics of a Thirsty WorldSM
Pakistan & India: Increased Water Tension

Via Socyberty, a report on the water resource challenges facing Pakistan, and the increasing pressure these constraints are placing on the India-Pakistani relationship & the long-established Indus Water Treaty.  As the article notes:

“…Pakistan water resources are distinctive and limited. During the last few years due to scanty rains in Balochistan, lower Punjab and Sindh there had been serious water crisis in Pakistan. There is an urgent need for managing and utilizing our water resources most efficiently for rapid economic growth…

Pakistan lies in the area of subtropical arid and semi arid where dry climate prevails throughout Indus plain except Northern mountainous area with temperate climate. Annual rainfall over Indus plain is erratic and not more than 150mm. Most of the rainfall is in the during the monsoon season.

Pakistan’s land area is 79.61 million hectares of which 23.25 million hectares are under cultivation. About 77 percent area is irrigated. Around 35.03 million hectares are utilized for agriculture and forest development purpose. Water is essential for the growth of agriculture. Supply of water from canal cannot fully meet the full requirement of the crop production. There is a shortage of irrigated water and most of the time it undergoes heavy losses due to seepage in canals. Watercourses and channels increase water losses. About 40 percent of total available water is wiped out in this prevailing irrigation system. In the context of water scarcity our growth in agriculture is slackened. It is estimated from 97 percent of consumption of fresh water about less than 50 percent is worth utilization.

Pakistan’s majority of the population is dependent upon agriculture. This sector the main user of water continues to rely upon water. We have been gifted with huge rich water resources, with water flowing down from Himalayas and Karrakurram heights from world’s largest glaciers. As a result of this we have the largest irrigation system irrigating more than 36 million hectares of land. Indus Valley River System the main source of water resource is the largest irrigation system in the world. It consists of large number of barrages, canals and water courses. The system has three reservoirs. (Tarbela, Mangla and Chashma). River water is directed by barrages and headwork into main canals and subsequently into branch canals, distributaries and minors. The flow to the farm is through watercourses. Most of the water used for irrigation cannot be utilized again. About 50 percent water is wasted by evaporation.

Scarcity of water is noticed in arid irrigated areas. This problem does not exist in humid areas. In flat plain land irrigation water raises water table land due to absence of good drainage system. As a result of this the land becomes waterlogged and there is no substantial crop production and improvement in yield. The Indus Basin has a flat topography, substandard drainage system and semi arid climate with excessive evaporation system. Due to this environment a large area of Indus Basin is facing problem of water logging and salinity. The re-routing of river flows, seepage from canals, watercourses and irrigated lands have given rise in groundwater levels.  In the span of 100 years, water table has risen around 42 percent of Indus Basin. In Sindh province the situation is precarious where water table is within 3 meters on 60 percent of irrigated land.

Pakistan is anticipated to become the fifth largest populous nation by 2030 with a population between 230 and 260 million. According to some experts over the next 20 years Pakistan’s water resources are forecast to decline by more than 37 percent-from 1100 to 700 cubic meters per person per year due to government absence of farsightedness and deliberate negligence. The Planning Commission of Pakistan estimates from canal head to outlet at 25 percent and from outlet to farm gate at 15 percent. According to UN report, by the middle of this century at worst, seven billion people in 60 countries will be faced with water scarcity like population growth and development needs. There are chances of World War on water.

Pakistan has suffered losses amounting to over Rs 10 billion because of the Indian blockade of river Chenab water during August-September in violation of the 1960 Indus Water Treaty between the two countries. Under this treaty Pakistan was given exclusive and uninterrupted rights waters of three rivers Indus, Jhelum and Chenab. The treaty binds India not to reduce the water flow in Chenab River below 55,000 cusecs between June 21 and August 31, 2008, whereas Pakistan had been receiving a discharge of as low as 20,000 cusecs during August-September 2008 when Kharif crops cotton, rice and sugarcane needed water for maturity. The government in order to counterbalance the negative economic effect of any potential Chenab water blockade by India has taken decision to construct new reservoir at Marala and Chiniot. Another alternative under consideration by government is to take water from Indus River to the Jhelum to Chenab River to meet India threat.

In order to avoid loss of water in the irrigation system measures be taken forthwith to increase water availability, water reliability, equitable distribution of water and irrigation efficiency to lessen water logging and salinity. According to World Bank report, Pakistan does not have enough reservoir capacity in the irrigation system to store seasonal and flood waters. Storage capacity is essential for providing the flexibility required by the shift from a supply- the based operation system towards a demand-based one.

Water logging and salinity are the major problems to be tackled on top priority. Besides this, there should be proper lining of open channels and use of pipes to transport water for reducing seepage losses. Further, there must be a system for control of evaporation from water surface in reservoirs and canals. A water policy may be introduced with reference to the recharge of aquifers and the movement of the water through river basins towards the sea taking into consideration the interaction of surface and ground water in term of quantity and quality covering the whole of river basin. The prospect of rain fed area is to be explored by introducing modern technology such as induction of new crops, additional irrigation, deficit irrigation and precision irrigation. This would help in increasing crop yield and food production.

Since water resources in Pakistan are depleting they need to be managed properly. We should consider water as a God gifted and valuable economic asset. We should conserve water for our future generation and at the same time be aware of the present requirement. Through water management we will be able to ensure increase crop yield, multiple cropping and full year crop production. Consequently, there will be increase in employment and reduction in poverty. Two important strategies be evolved one is to locate, develop and explore new sources of water and the other one government should give lucrative incentives to those who boost water conservation and utilize water economically. Ultimately, Pakistan will have to invest soon on costly and contentious essential dam. It is heartening to note that government has given a go ahead signal for the construction of Diamer-Bhasha Dam projected at an estimated cost of $ 12.6 million. The task is gigantic but has to be taken seriously not only for the present economic prosperity but for the future years ahead.”

This entry was posted on Saturday, January 2nd, 2010 at 7:44 am and is filed under India, Indus, Pakistan.  You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.  Both comments and pings are currently closed. 

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