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Water management of Pakistan


Water resource management in Pakistan is a very precarious issue. According to a report from the Planning and Development body of the Pakistan Government, water availability has decreased from 1,299 m per capita in 1996-97 to 1,101 m per capita in 2004-05.1 This essentially places Pakistan in the very high stress category of countries and signals that water management processes employed in the country are largely unsustainable. In order to analyze management of water resources, we must first identify the primary resources in the country. Precipitation The long-term average annual rainfall received is 494 mm; this varies from about 100 mm on average in southern parts of the country like Baluchistan and Sind to about 1500 mm annually in the northern mountainous regions / foothills. Most of this rainfall- about 60%- is recorded in monsoon months of JulySeptember.2 The problem with these figures is that most of this water is lost due to rapid runoff from torrential showers. In fact the total contribution of precipitation to crop production is only 10% in the Indus Basin Irrigation System (IBIS). Surface Water The IBIS can be considered as the primary source of groundwater in the country as it covers almost 71 percent of the territory, including entirely the provinces of Punjab, Sind and Khyber- Pakhtunkhwa and eastern parts of Baluchistan. According to the Indus Water Treaty of 1960, the IBIS is divided into a set of eastern (Bias, Sutlej and Ravi) and western rivers (Jhelum, Chenab and Kabul). The eastern rivers by right belong to India and therefore contribute only about 6% to the total river flow in Pakistan.3 Other basins such as the Makran Coast and the Karan closed basin do not have a perennial supply and have a total flow of less than 5 k m3.4 Glacier and snow melt, rainfall and runoff constitute the river flows in Pakistan, thereby resulting in high amounts of seasonal variability. During the winter months river flows are reduced by as much as 5 times in the western rivers and even more in the eastern rivers due to lack of snow melt and low rainfall; limiting the development of run of - river type irrigated agriculture, especially in the winter to early summer months.5 Another major issue that needs to be looked at is the surface water flow into the Arabian Sea, which in the pre- storage period (1937- 1967), accounted for almost 50% of the river flows. Post storage analysis shows that this flow has been reduced drastically from 95.4 to 48.4 billion m3.6 Currently, Pakistan has 3 large dams ( Tarbela, Mangla and Warsak), 50 smaller dams while 11 small dams are also under construction. Given the high seasonal variation, and loss of water to the sea, case of constructing more large dams is a very serious one. However, as seen with the issue of Kalabagh dam to be constructed on the Indus- construction of dams often requires major political consensus, which is often impossible to achieve in societies as ethnically diverse as Pakistan. Groundwater The Indus basin commands an extensive aquifer, covering an area of 16.2 million ha.7 Before the canal irrigation and storage system, the basin was in a state of hydrological equilibrium, with the water table well below the surface. The ground level recharge through rainfall and river flows was balanced by the

2 outflows and crop evapotranspiration. However, with time and development and due to increased percolation the water table has risen to within 3 meters of the ground, with some areas of the basin having water table as close as 1.5 m to the surface. This has its benefits as it allows for water to be pumped for irrigation, and as is the case in major urban centers for daily use. The downside for this is that due to poor drainage infrastructure, large parts of the basin are plagued by the twin issues of water logging and salinity. Issue of water quality The issue of poor drainage extends further to unplanned disposal of agricultural waste- which includes pesticides, fertilizers e.t.c- untreated sewage and industrial waste- loaded with metals and other toxinsinto several water bodies such as canals, rivers and drains. For example, according to one study from 1995, 34 billion liters of untreated water was allowed in several water bodies. This clearly shows that water management practices of the country remain extremely unsustainable and potentially disastrous, as a fast growing population will further exacerbate the need for clean surface water in the years to come. Water pricing and its effectiveness Water charges or drainage taxes are levied to manage operational and maintenance of distribution canals, and are managed by provincial department of revenue or irrigation. However, collection is an issue due to often less delivery of water, illegal diversion e.t.c. This creates multiple problems, the biggest being the increased pumping of fresh groundwater through electric tube wells. Increased water mining has the potential to seriously redistribute the groundwater quality, causing even freshwater areas to become saline. Also, with the rising population, and increased and unchecked pumping, the reverse problem of drying water tables remains a matter of concern too. Goals for Water Management The primary goal for water management in Pakistan is concentrated on ensuring availability of clean drinking water for large parts of its population. In light of this Clean Drinking Water for All, (CDWA) is a project funded by a group of aid organizations, that will oversee the deployment of 6000 plants which will use modern techniques to provide clean drinking water. Locations for 1600 such plants have already been marked in Punjab, which is the largest and most thickly populated province.8 In addition to this the World Bank has recently approved credit for the second phase of the Pakistan Barrages improvement project. This particular project will concentrate on the modernization of the Jinnah barrage on the Indus River and generally concentrate on improvement of irrigation processes and water management.9 The importance of water for a country like Pakistan increases further as a result of its potential to generate electricity. In light of this US government has recently announced investment for construction of two hydroelectric dams in the northern regions of the country along with 13 irrigation, water storage and municipal water projects across the country.10 However, for the water situation to become more sustainable in Pakistan, the government will need to divert a lot more funds and planning to this cause, otherwise Pakistans status as a high stress country will most likely have a telling impact on it economy and future generations.

List of References 1.
http://www.statpak.gov.pk/depts/fbs/publications/yearbook2007/agriculture/1.15.pdf.

2. http://www.fao.org/docrep/005/ac623e/ac623e0i.htm 3. http://www.fao.org/nr/water/aquastat/countries/pakistan/index.stm 4. http://www.fao.org/nr/water/aquastat/countries/pakistan/index.stm 5. http://www.fao.org/docrep/005/ac623e/ac623e0i.htm 6. http://www.fao.org/docrep/005/ac623e/ac623e0i.htm 7. http://www.fao.org/nr/water/aquastat/countries/pakistan/index.stm 8. http://www.waterlink-international.com/news/id968-CDWA_for_Pakistan.html 9. http://www.waterworld.com 10. http://articles.latimes.com/2010/jul/19/world/la-fgw-clinton-pakistan-20100720

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