Our Water Scenario: Are We Heading Towards A Disaster?

It is believed that origin of life is from water and sustainability of life as well so whenever we think about the possibility of life, water appears as primary need, precious most among the blessings of God. Visualize earth crust its two-thirds portion is covered with water. It seems as an unlimited wealth and everybody is ready to use it without bounds but 97% of total water present on earth crust is saline oceanic water and remaining only 3% is fresh water


Anila Munir, M.Sc. Hons., Department of Horticulture, PMAS-Arid Agriculture University,

Murree Road, Rawalpindi.

[email protected]

 It is believed that origin of life is from water and sustainability of life as well so whenever we think about the possibility of life, water appears as primary need, precious most among the blessings of God. Visualize earth crust its two-thirds portion is covered with water. It seems as an unlimited wealth and everybody is ready to use it without bounds but 97% of total water present on earth crust is saline oceanic water and remaining only 3% is fresh water. Furthermore the major share of 68.7% among the later one (3% fresh water) is bounded by glaciers or the icecaps, 30.1% is the ground water which is not sweet always, and only 0.3% is the surface water. Out of that smaller surface water lakes comprise of 87%, swamps are 11% and rivers are about 2%. Oh! Our major dependency is on that 2%. Now the scenario seems totally different, anybody whoever he or she it, must now think for saving some water for him, for his country, for the globe and for the future generations.

Fig.1: Distribution of water on earth

During the last century world’s population tripled and this rapid growth rate is predicting the further 40-50% increases in population within next 50 years. According to an estimate presently the use of water resources has grown six fold and there is strong believe that it will be double in coming years because of industrialization, urbanization and agriculture needs. It is an alarming situation for whole world, this unwise and non judicial use of water inviting many environmental hazards. Today’s prime importance is water conservation and its proper management. It is not only the responsibility of government and its machinery but also it is the duty of every single human being otherwise coming future could be horrible.  

Pakistan is blessed with many natural resources! Out of which WATER is the most imperative one. But on contrary our present dilemma is also water. According to the forecasting situation as stated recently in a World Bank report, “Pakistan is swiftly moving from being a water stressed country to a water scarce country”. The phrase is alarming for every patriot. Being on the progress foots with high population growth rate and rapid industrialization water is becoming the critical issue as the days passing by. Million gallons of sweet water is daily thrown into the Arabian Sea without any positive utilization leaving a major portion of population facing thirst. It is not only depleting drinking water but also inviting many environmental hazards. According to United Nation’s world water development report, “The total actual renewable water resources in Pakistan decreased from 2,961 cubic meters per capita in 2000 to 1,420 cubic meters in 2005’’. Pakistan is among highly stress countries because its 40% of nonrenewable water resources already has been utilized. If current trend continues, it could fall below 550cubic meters. According to word bank, Pakistan has water reserves for 30 days; whereas India can store water for 120 days and U.S.A have water reserves for 900 days.

Pakistan is blessed with the water of five rivers and among them there are many Lakes and dams (Rawal lake, Khanpur lake, Simli lake, Kallar kahar lake, Satpara lake, Bagshar lake, Hiliji lake, Kachura lake, Mohodand lake, Misriot dam, Tanaza dam, Tarbela dam, Mangla dam, Warsak dam) which serve as the major storage bodies to cope with all water needs of Pakistan including house hold, industry and agriculture. Question is after having all these water reserves why Pakistan is currently experiencing water stress and the conditions will soon lead to outright water scarcity? Why the United Nations is rating Pakistan in water scare countries? The answer may be that the ground water is used without any care and justification devoid of keeping the proper recharge in sight, especially in the urbanized areas the ground water level is decreasing. The major problem in cities is changing weather conditions, lesser rainfall, and uncontrolled runoff ultimately decreasing recharge capacity and causing problem. The smart nations start developing unpaved surfaces in their cities for the maximum recharge and control of water bodies’ contamination with municipal pollution. Conversion of Trafalgar Square surroundings into green grassy surface is a mile stone example.

The important fact in this regard is that Pakistan has world’s largest canal irrigation system. According to World Bank’s report ‘‘It lost 50% of its water through unlined irrigation canals and channels, water supply could be increased by improving the irrigation network at one fifth of the cost of building new dams’’. Although some great steps in this context have been taken by the government and subsidies are provided to the farmers for the lining of water distributaries but a lot more efforts still undermine. Despite of canal irrigated area the measures for rain fed barani lands are also required to adopt where water conditions are already below standards. Pakistan is using almost all of its available water resources today and no more left in reserve. If we are not going to understand the situation sincerely not only we but our future generations will pay for it through their nose. Pakistan has already faced famine and large scale starvation in rural areas and as the water conditions prevailing today green lands are rapidly turning to dust bowls. Thousands of acres of arable land which feed large communities have become deserts in Sindh and Punjab belt and scores are being added daily in the masses.

Health problems are also emerging from inadequate access of population to safe drinking water. More than a billion people in the world do not have access to safe drinking water, a basic necessity. In Pakistan alone, 38.5million people lack access to safe drinking water, so we can say that Pakistani’s are facing unprecedented shortage of clean drinking water, due to which people are subjected to deadly diseases like hepatitis, cholera and certain other epidemics also out breaks.

Some political issue is also involve in the whole scenario the most important one is Indus basin treaty with India but according to its nature of breaking promises and not care about its own words India has violated against treaty by constructing sixty two (62) water dams on river Indus, Jehlum and Chenab restricting the water flow of these rivers by 50%. Balghyar Dam has turned 80 lack acers of arable land in Multan and Okara as barren. Indian project of “Kishan Ganga Dam” will in turn reduce 27% water flow in Jehlum River. Pakistan wanted water security beyond the 1960 Indus basin treaty. Politics and personal agendas washed in imported mineral water shouldn’t mock those with dry and chocked lips. Our leaders relate water from Kashmir as a condition for peace with India, but both of them left this issue indispensable. Kashmir could be sensed as a core issue not because of any ideology but because of Pakistan’s water needs. It could be forecasted that whenever our government took some strict steps in this regard there may be onset of another war between the two countries.

On top of it, government plan to built Kala Bagh dam and Thal Canal which, has been politicized on provincial integrity breaks as dilemma. As the resource is becoming scarce tension among different users may intensify, shortage of water and its unjustified use a political stunt in Pakistan have the potential of sabotaging the new found bonhomie between the people of four provinces. The opposition of major water conservation projects just because of ignorance, illiteracy and politics. Thal Canal and Kala Bagh Dam is grown up as a contradictory issue and the conditions is now at the state where “Peace between Punjab and Sindh depends on water.”

Side apart from political issues, for prosperity and economic development of our country proper planning and efforts are required to fill the loop holes concerning both politics and social ones. Huge and unjustifiable cost is being paid to acquire benefits in terms of social and environmental issues. Expertise can be put to work to meet Pakistan’s pressing water and environmental needs. Deteriorating environmental conditions and a scarcity of natural resource demand the adoption of sustainable approaches in order to ensure the maintained water supply as per demand. The sustainability does never means that the out puts should meet the demands of the people but it always signify that the needs should be fulfilled from the justified use of available resources without harming the environment and the needs of future generations. Agriculture is the major stand back for the country’s economy and the concept of production to convene the demands of the growing populations seems a foolish dream.

Along with efficient water-shed management to minimize the sedimentation rate in major reservoirs, we have to control pollution and purify industrial and municipal waste water. So there is a need to set up new reservoirs on an urgent basis visualizing scarcity of water to get worse in near future. The integrated management at both levels i.e., canals and tap can serve to save the future of nation. We have to utilize the scarce water resources efficiently before it is too late to head back the disaster.

Human or animal, crop or forest, birth or germination every thing will perish when the water will not available. Challenges are great and the stakes are very high but failure is not an option!!! OUR challenge is capacity building and infrastructural development. We have no more time left to think, make agendas, and work on committees but to take rock-solid and straight forward steps. The public awareness, opinion, and involvement is utmost obligatory. Isn’t it seemed necessary that now everybody should deem it precious enough to care for the conservation, management and utilization of water recourses wherever it is possible.


Briscoe, J. and U. Qamar. 2008. Pakistan’s Water Economy Running Dry. Oxford University Press, USA.

Nils, R. 2006. Drinking water crisis in Pakistan and the issue of bottled water the case of Nestle’s pure life. Swiss Coalition of Development Organizations, Monbijoustrasse 31, CH-3001 Berne,

Sharing water. 2005. United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization

Baid, S. 2005. Not Kashmir but Kashmir’s water is the core issue for Pakistan. Greater Kashmir.

Timothy, H. and J.L. Turner. 2002. Water crisis in China and Pakistan. Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

Workshop Report. 2007. Workshop on water situation in Pakistan. The Hague, Netherlands.

Muhammad Ramzan Rafique
Muhammad Ramzan Rafique

I am from a small town Chichawatni, Sahiwal, Punjab , Pakistan, studied from University of Agriculture Faisalabad, on my mission to explore world I am in Denmark these days..

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