An Alarming Water Crisis: Will Pakistan Have No Water in 2025?


God has bestowed Pakistan with many blessings such as all seasons, glaciers, hill stations, mountains, seas, oceans and many more then what is the reason that Pakistan is briskly running out of water and water shortage has become a problem of our lives?

There are plenty of water resources for Pakistan such as glaciers, monsoon rainfall, subsoil water, lakes (Keenjhar, Saiful Maluk, Manchar, etc.), Arabian Sea is also connected to the shore of Karachi, etc. But still, Pakistan is becoming a water-stressed country. Why? Pakistan is a country, where glaciers melt from the very top and all water from the melted glaciers directly fall into the seas and get wasted. Water is something which is used for daily human consumption also in livestock, power generation, agriculture, water sports, etc. But unfortunately, the country is unable to save water and now an alarming red light has been turned on for Pakistan that it will face a water crisis in 2025.

Pakistan’s history in water, (IWT)

Indus Water Treaty (IWT) is a water dispensing treaty between Pakistan and India. Indus Water Treaty (IWT) was signed by the first Prime Minister of India Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and President of Pakistan General Ayub Khan in Karachi on September 19, 1960. According to the terms and conditions of this agreement, out of 6 rivers right of three rivers the Beas, the Ravi and the Sutlej with the mean flow of 33 million-acre-feet (MAF) were given to India and right of three rivers the Indus river also known as Sindh River, the Chenab and the Jhelum river with the mean flow of 80 million-acre-feet (MAF) were given to Pakistan.

Though Pakistan has three major rivers and other water sources to fulfill its needs but last year on September 15, 2017, it was alerted by some experts that Pakistan could face mass drought by 2025 as water level nears “absolute scarcity.” The Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources (PCRWR) made a forecast which claimed that country touched the “water stress line” in 1990 before crossing the “water scarcity line” in 2005.  According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the water of the Indus River is the best drinking water but the country is destroying it.

Main failures behind this

There might be bunch of failures behind this problem but some of the major failures behind this chaos are that, there are no new dams and reservoirs in Pakistan since the 1960’s to save this surplus water due to which all water gets wasted, an eminent increase in population is becoming a great threat in water depletion, climate change is another factor, water consumption habits, there are no proper water storage facilities and has poor water management, authorities lack the political will to tackle the problem, massive corruption in water sector to profit themselves, always more concerned about blaming India for the breach of an agreement of IWT (1960) that India has stopped water instead focusing on their own weakness.

If we see neighbor countries, for example by comparing Pakistan with India, India has constructed 3200 dams and reservoirs to save water for future needs whereas in Pakistan we have only 150 dams and reservoirs. The two major dams in Pakistan, Mangla Dam and Tarbela Dam which are the only sources for the country for irrigation, flood control and power generation were constructed during the regime of General Ayub Khan after that even a single dam or reservoir has not been constructed. Pakistan’s largest canal system known as Upper Bari Doab Canal (UBDC) which supports the irrigational system till date was also dug up during General Ayub Khan’s regime. There is a myth that only Tarbela dam alone is enough to fulfill the needs and energy of Pakistan which we need to understand is totally wrong. If Tarbela Dam alone is enough for everything, then energy shortage problem and destruction by 2010 flood would never have happened.

By connecting it to the flood of late July 2010, which resulted from heavy monsoon rainfall due to which about 20 million people were affected badly with a death toll of close to 2000. Pakistan had to face an estimated loss of $43 billion worth of property due to the flood and agriculture sector was also heavily and badly affected and by putting other things aside only cotton bales of worth $2 million were destroyed. Pakistan’s Kharif crops have already declined 42%. Country’s per capita water availability has already reduced from 5000 cubic meters per year to around 1000 cubic meters per year. If we had made new dams or reservoirs, flood water would have diverted towards them and that water could be used in power generation but as mentioned before no dams have been constructed since 1960’s till date and due to the poor strategy of government institutions, the country had to go through a huge loss. At that time even two major dams of the country were not enough to tackle that disaster.

Cape Town, capital of South Africa faced a drought in 2015 resulting in a severe water shortage in the region mostly affecting commercial agriculture. In early 2018, dams were predicted to decline even more at critically low level due to which government then started a campaign and announced plans for “Day Zero.” A day when there will be no water left even a single drop. The city has reduced its daily water usage by complying on to this plan which helped in increasing the level of six major dams up to 65%. Though it was announced that “Day Zero” was unlikely for 2019, but still water restrictions will remain in place until dam levels reach 85%. Just because Cape town is a civilized city that’s why it became an important headline to the whole world. But Karachi is suffering from this problem for 6 to 7 years but unluckily we haven’t heard a single news of it except news by Pakistan’s own news channels. First of all, masses of Karachi do not get any water and we are not talking about clean water or dirty water right now but somehow if they are able to find water they do not know whether it is safe or unsafe for their health. On April 26, 1990, there came a news that Cape town city will run out of the water but government at that time did not carry out emergency measures to curb this problem and now they are struggling to overcome this problem. Right now, Pakistan is also passing through the same situation due to the poor strategy of government institutions, poor distribution of water, disorganized policies and ranks 3rd among countries who are facing water shortage whereas ranks 6 in the list of countries by population and has been ranked at 4th in water consumption but dependent on single source of water that is Indus River Basin in India. According to UNICEF’s report, clean drinking water is not available to 50% of schools and school going children. If the country does not use water carefully, not only will the availability of agricultural products be affected but the country will also be deprived of drinking water.

Measures to curb this problem

The first and foremost thing is that people of the country should not start blame game on government that, this is all due to their dereliction but to start conserving water as much as they can on their own because if one knows about his rights at the same time he must be aware of his obligations also. Stop wasting water extravagantly. Water desalination plants must be installed. Revamp drainage system and recycle wasted water to make it able for reuse. The government of Pakistan must have to make proper and effective policies on an emergency basis and a plan for efficient water distribution and water management for the whole country. Must construct small dams like Iran do instead of big dams which takes time for completion. If this situation persists, it is confirmed that no one can save Pakistan and the country will be doomed for sure. People need to understand that their personal disputes on Kalabagh dam will lead the country to devastation and this problem in the future will become inevitable. So, it is important that they should put their personal interests aside and start working mutually in the construction of the Kalabagh dam. Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP), Mian Saqib Nisar’s initiative for Diamer Bhasha Dam and Mohmand Dam to curb water crisis is of great importance at this time. Both Kalabagh Dam and Diamer Bhasha Dam have the ability to produce 8000MV of energy this means 4000MV by Kalabagh Dam and 4000MV by Diamer Bhasha Dam. If both dams are constructed, then the energy shortage issue prevailing in the country will also be solved along with water shortage. This project should be the main priority for the new government in order to minimize water crisis.

Michael Samuel
Michael Samuel
Master of Public Administration student at Quaid-I-Azam University, Islamabad, Pakistan


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