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Water Scenario: Past, Present and Future of Pakistan                                                              By: Muha...
especially in view of the fact that the existing major reservoirs (Chashma, Mangla andTarbela) are silting up and have alr...
against Indias demand for 38 MCM. The report also recommended to reduce the heightof freeboard from 4.5 m to 3.0 m. Howeve...
series of dams can save our lands from turning into deserts. It is true that India is goingahead with controversial dams a...
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Water scenario


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Water Scenario in Pakistan

Published in: News & Politics

Water scenario

  1. 1. Water Scenario: Past, Present and Future of Pakistan By: Muhammed Zafir ZiaPer capita availability of surface water in Pakistan is gradually dwindling from5300 cubic meter in 1951 to 1000 cubic meters in 2005 and is projected to hit lessthan 1000 cubic meters making Pakistan a water short countryOf all the major problems, water crisis is the one that lies at the heart of our survival andthat of our planet. Experts project that the global water crisis will reach unprecedentedlevels in the years ahead in many parts of the developing world. The years ahead predictthe threat of looming water wars between countries. According to figures published bythe United Nations & other international organizations, 1.1bn people are without asufficient access to water, and 2.4bn people have to live without adequate sanitation.Under current trends, the prognosis is that about 3bn people of a population of 8.5bn willsuffer from water shortage by 2025. 83% of them will live in developing countries,mostly in rural areas where even today sometimes only 20% of the populations haveaccess to a sufficient water supply. Fresh drinking water is not only a need of humanbeings, but equally important for the animals and agriculture throughout the world. Thisacute water shortage will be responsible in spreading diseases as contaminated water isthe sole cause of nearly 80% infectious diseases. Hence the world has to take serious andconcrete measures in order to avoid the water crisis in the years to come.Situation of Water in Pakistan:Water plays an immensely important role in the economy of Pakistan which primarilydepends on Agriculture accounting for 24 per cent of the national GDP, 48 per centemployment and 70 per cent of countrys exports. Per capita availability of surface waterin Pakistan is gradually dwindling from 5300 cubic meter in 1951 to 1000 cubic meters in2005 and is projected to hit less than 1000 cubic meters making Pakistan a water shortcountry as per the world standards. Pakistan has a total of 77 million acres of landsuitable for agriculture out of which 54 million acres (71per cent) is already cultivated.The remaining 23 million acres (29 per cent) can become productive if water is madeavailable for irrigation. Irrigation in Pakistan mainly depends upon Indus river which hasan average annual flow of 138 to 145 MAF (Million Acre Feet). Some experts calculatethis quantity as low as 123.5 MAF. Average water flow downstream Kotri since 1977 hasbeen 35 MAF while Sindhs estimates indicate that roughly 10 MAF is required to flow tothe sea. The Indus water quantity, after deducting 10 MAF required to flow downstreamKotri and 5 MAF for headwater uses comes to about 20 MAF which the FederalGovernment and some experts feel can be stored during floods and used during the leanperiod. The construction of reservoirs, is thus a badly needed and viable proposition
  2. 2. especially in view of the fact that the existing major reservoirs (Chashma, Mangla andTarbela) are silting up and have already lost 25 per cent of their total capacity.Indus Water Treaty 1960:After Independence, problems between the two countries arose over the distribution ofwater. Rivers flow into Pakistan territory from India. On April 1, 1948, India stopped thesupply of water to Pakistan from every canal flowing from India to Pakistan. Pakistanprotested and India finally agreed on an interim agreement on May 4, 1948. Thisagreement was not a permanent solution; therefore, Pakistan approached the World Bankin 1952 to help settle the problem permanently. It was finally in Ayub Khans regime thatan agreement was signed between India and Pakistan in September 1960. This agreementis known as the “Indus Water Treaty”. This treaty divided the use of rivers and canalsbetween the two countries. Pakistan obtained exclusive rights for the three western rivers,namely Indus, Jehlum and Chenab. And India retained rights to the three eastern rivers,namely Ravi, Beas and Sutluj. The treaty also guaranteed ten years of uninterrupted watersupply. During this period Pakistan was to build huge dams, financed partly by long-termWorld Bank loans and compensation money from India. Three multipurpose dams,Warsak, Mangla and Tarbela were built. A system of eight link canals was also built, andthe remodeling of existing canals was carried out. Five barrages and a gated siphon werealso constructed under this treaty. This treaty of 1960 was never beneficial to Pakistan asit clearly showed the Indian ascendancy. Even after this agreement, many water-relatedissues between the two countries have come to fore from time to time, especially withregard to the construction of some controversial dams by India such as Sallal Dam,Wullar Barrage, Baglihar Dam and now Kishanganga dam.Indian Violations: Baglihar Hydroelectric Power Project and Kishanganga DamThe Baglihar Hydroelectric Power Project on the Chenab River (Chenab was allocated toPakistan according to the 1960 Treaty) in the southern Doda district of the Indianadministered state of Jammu and Kashmir was conceived in 1992, approved in 1996 andits construction began in 1999 with an estimated cost of USD $1 billion. Instead ofimmediate questioning and pressurizing India to stop the construction of the controversialBaglihar dam Pakistani government reacted very late and clumsily. Pakistan started talkswith India in 2002, in order to convince India to change the design of the dam but to noavail. The talks failed and Pakistan raised the issue of the illegal construction of bagliharwith the World Bank in 2005. Pakistan raised 4 major concerns and reservations relatedto the construction of Baglihar dam, firstly its height, secondly its capacity of storingwater, thirdly installing the gated control of spillway and fourthly that this project is inviolation to the Indus Water Treaty of 1960. The World Bank nominated ProfessorRaymond Lafitte, a Swiss national, civil engineer and professor at the Swiss FederalInstitute of Technology in Lausanne, as a neutral expert to make a finding on a differencebetween the two governments concerning the construction of the Baglihar project. Mr.Lafitte declared his final verdict on February 12, 2007 in which he upheld some minorobjections of Pakistan. The report acknowledged Indias right to construct gatedspillways under Indus water treaty 1960.The report allowed pondage of 32.58 MCM as
  3. 3. against Indias demand for 38 MCM. The report also recommended to reduce the heightof freeboard from 4.5 m to 3.0 m. However he rejected Pakistani objections on height andgated control of spillway declaring these were conforming to engineering norms of theday. Experts projected that this Baglihar Dam would decrease 8000 cusecs of water dailyto Pakistan which in totality is about 29 lakh 20 thousands cusecs an year and will badlyhit the agriculture sector of Punjab in particular.The Kishanganga dam is located 160 km upstream from Muzaffarabad and involves thediversion of Kishanganga River (called the Neelum River in Pakistan) to a tributarynamed Bunar Madumati Nullah of Jhelum near Bunkot. Experts say that the Kishangangaproject (to be build across the Jehlum river) could reduce Pakistan’s total wateravailability from an estimated 154 MAF to about 140 MAF per year. It would also leavesignificant portion of the Mangla Dam’s storage capacity unutilised. It is also feared thatthe diversion would result in an ecological disaster for the area. In water-related issues,Pakistan has always been on the losing end. By being engaged in negotiations withPakistan, India secures sufficient time to continue the unnoticed construction of itscontroversial dams. For that reason India balks at the indulgence of third party in allwater-related issues between both the countries and instead it insists on bilateral talks.India is constructing more than 50 dams on the Indus and Jehlum and 7 other dams otherthan Baglihar on the Chenab river. By constructing one after another controversial dams,India is causing trouble for Pakistan which is already confronting a severe water crisis.Diamer-Bhasha dam: A step forwardThe President of Pakistan during his national address on 17 January 2006 announced thedecision of Government to construct 5 multi-purpose storages in the country during next10 -12 years. Diamer Basha Dam Project will be undertaken in the first phase. Work onthe project started after the ground-breaking ceremony by the President of Pakistan. TheExecutive Committee of the National Economic Council has approved the construction ofDiamer-Bhasha dam. It is revealed that 4500 MW of electricity would be generatedthrough the dam. The construction work will be completed in seven years with the cost of$12.6 billions, & will have the capacity to store 8.1 million acre feet water. The project isscheduled to be completed within the prescribed time frame in 2016.Disharmony and reservations:It is lamentable that once Pakistan was among the top wheat producing countries of theworld but today it has to import wheat to cater the needs of its people. Wheat crop needsplenty of water while in winter wheat crop is supplied water from dams. It is unfortunate,rather criminal negligence, that our successive governments have not been able to buildany major dam after Mangla and Tarbela whose storage capacity is shrinking due to siltby each passing day. How ironic it is that our politicians are quick to solve the Kalabaghdam by putting off this project for indefinite period which is equivalent to abandoning theproject. Our politicians are of the view that Kalabagh dam is detrimental to ourfederation. It is a bitter reality that by being lazy to find out a suitable substitute toKalabagh Dam for many decades, we have reached a situation where not one or two but a
  4. 4. series of dams can save our lands from turning into deserts. It is true that India is goingahead with controversial dams and is interfering with our waters, showing utter disregardto the provisions of the Indus Water Treaty. However, raising a great hue and cry overIndia’s unjust construction of dams can hardly persuade New Delhi to change its mind.Therefore, the need of the hour is to make the optimal use of our waters by making anumber of dams on emergency basis. Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan once said that the scarcityof water will pose a greater threat than the nuclear capability of the enemy . Thereforedrastic measures should be taken to conserve each and every drop of water available notonly think of ourselves but also for our generations to come.How to improve the situation?Population of Pakistan today is around more than 160 million and it is expected to rise to208 million by 2025. This growth in population will significantly increase the demand forfood and fibre, with both land and water resources are declining day by day. Pakistan’sfood import bill is rising on account of population and output is declining as a result ofreduced water availability. However it is appreciable that the water sector had been giventhe highest priority in the budget allocation of 2007-08 with an allocation of Rs 70.91billion, which was 24 percent higher than the preceding year budget allocation. Electedpolitical leadership in Pakistan has been able to develop consensus on a number ofextremely complex and altercated issues such as the 1973 Constitution and 1991 WaterAccord. Therefore a serious and sincere effort by politicians can help resolving all waterrelated disputes and remove the doubts & reservations put forward by provinces.Pakistans political leadership needs to activate constitutional conflicts resolutionmechanisms such as the Council of Common Interests (CCI). To overcome watershortage crisis, the solution lies in the proper water management at watershed, reservoirs,conveyance system i. e, at canals and distributaries level as well as watercourses and farmapplication levelling of open channels and use of pipes to transport water for reducingseepage losses. To prepare cemented water beds at the bottom of the base. Building ofmore dams in the country is also good solution to solve the problem of water shortage.Pakistanis need the will, dedication, strength and the unity in order to resolve the watercrisis in Pakistan.The writer is an engineer & can be contacted at