Nowadays everybody on social media or electronic media is talking about water scarcity. Recently, Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources (PCRWR) had issued a warning that the country may run dry by 2025 if the authorities did not take immediate action to pacify the situation. In 2016, PCRWR had already reported that Pakistan touched the “water stress line” in 1990 and “crossed the water scarcity line” in 2005. But no one focused on the report and ignored this crucial issue.
Pakistan has a surface water of 153 million acre feet (MAF) and underground water resources of only 24 MAF and Pakistan may face water scarcity of 33 MAF during the year 2025. According to a research study on water resources of Pakistan, approximately water having economic values of $70 billion is being thrown into the sea every year due to the lack of dams or other water reservoirs. India has already won the case of Kishinganga dam in International Court of Justice (ICJ) with help of powerful backchannel diplomacy before the international body.
Pakistan receives around 145 million acre-feet of water every year but can only save 13.7 million acre-feet. Pakistan’s 90% freshwater runs into the sea because we don’t have enough dams and water reservoirs. India won its argument before ICJ by saying that it should be allowed to use the western rivers because Pakistan cannot use them properly. Unfortunately, we have only two big reservoirs (Tarbela and Mangla Dam). Pakistan can only store water for 30 days compared to the 170 days capacity of India.
Some organizations and some social activist launch a campaign on social media and emphasize to construct Kalabagh Dam. The biggest problem is that for most people Kalabagh dam is the start and end of this crucial discussion. As we all know, some provinces like Sindh and KPK have some reservations on Kalabagh dam. The fact is that the so-called leaders of Sindh and KPK put baseless arguments. They said Peshawar, Nowshera, Mardan, Charsadda and other areas in the Indus River will sink and Sindh will become a desert if Kalabagh dam build. They have been making people fool since ages.
On the other side, Bashir A Malik, former chief technical advisor to the United Nations and World Bank, said, “Sindh and KPK would become drought areas in the years to come if Kalabagh Dam was not built.” At the same time, former KPK chief minister and former Chairman WAPDA Shamsul Mulk have stated, “Kalabagh Dam would be helpful in erasing poverty from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, as it would irrigate 800,000 acres of cultivable land that is located 100–150 feet above the level of River Indus.” The Kalabagh Dam would provide 6.5 million acre-feet of water to cultivate seven million acres of currently barren land in addition to the 3,600 megawatts (4,800,000 hp) of electricity it would provide.
No doubt, Kalabagh dam is a lifeline for Pakistan. At this moment, we should not indulge in any controversy. We have many other undisputed options; there are multiple other dams that can be built like Katzarah dam, Munda Dam, Kurram Tangi Dam, Akhori Dam, and Baasha dam. The construction of these dams is necessary to store water and generate electricity to meet demand. We should have prepared ourselves for the future. We have some technical shortcomings. We waste a lot of water without considering its importance. We do not refine and reuse waste sewage water, to clean it to use for city exterior plantation watering.
Unfortunately, no political parties in the country have water on their agenda /manifesto. Michael Kugelman, South Asian Expert said that “Pakistan is approaching the scarcity threshold for water. What even more disturbing is that groundwater supplies-the last resort of water supply-are being rapidly depleted. And worst of all is that the authorities have given no indication that they plan to do anything about any of this. “Election is around the corner, and an election campaign before that is like a cherry on the cake. These politicians will visit your towns, streets, and homes to collect a vote. For the safety of your future, make a promise you will vote for water. You as a responsible citizen of Pakistan will convince them to construct dams if they want your vote. I will vote for the one who makes a promise to construct dams for better and secure future of Pakistan.
If this issue has not been addressed timely, Pakistan will become a desert. Such crisis needs to be taken on war footings. Pakistan should launch its water policy on urgent basis. All political leaders and stakeholders need to take ownership of this national issue and announce their plan to tackle it. Blaming others, or blaming India won’t solve anything.