It is a fact that no country can be fully secure unless its people are protected from external as well as internal threats. No wonder the concept of security has expanded beyond the limited realm of nation state to include the human dimension. It is the individuals and their safety that has been realised to hold the central position while determining the security of the state. While the developed countries are exploring avenues to deal with issues like climate change, and to devise counter-measures to ultimately uplift the social conditions, the policy makers in Pakistan are unfortunately still wrestling with the state security in purely traditional sense, not as much by choice, eventually resulting in the deplorable human condition at the home front.
According to World Resources Institute (WRI), Pakistan will be the most water stressed country in the region by the year 2040. Despite having world’s most extensive irrigation system, water crisis has hit various cities of Pakistan and continues to aggravate by the day. Several factors have contributed to this problem. From siphoning of water through illegal connections, tanker mafia having support of corrupt officials, negligence and lack of accountability on the part of government, exponential growth in the size of population, lack of proper water storage facilities, massive influx of migrants, to the drastic climate change with fewer annual rainfalls, can all be blamed for the present dire conditions.
These sure are the real issues but there is more to it. The problem is that we are quick to blame and not ready to take the responsibility of our actions. A very important dimension which is usually overlooked is the civic responsibility. The callousness with which the wastage of water on daily basis is observed is shameful. One can see pipeline leakages, running taps left unattended, overflowing motor operated water tanks for domestic usage. While everyone has the right over basic commodities this privilege comes with the right to use them responsibly. Before such laxity leads to worst water drought, the need is to inculcate sense of responsibility at the national level. A country which is already suffering from water scarcity in several of its cities cannot afford this kind of insensitivity.
The authorities should also work on alternative energy resources more vigorously. Even though the increase in Industrial growth is a good economic indicator but at the same time consumes the lion’s share of electricity which is generated from water resources, needed to run the machinery. It leads to frequent power outages causing monetary setbacks by failing to meet export targets and ultimately damaging the foreign exchange earnings. The prospects for Wind energy can be explored as Pakistan has at least 50,000 MW of wind energy potential.
The government can reduce over dependency on water by initiating extensive water storage plans and regulatory framework, with the consent of all stake holders while making sure that they get implemented too. Building dams and reservoirs should be seen as life saving projects in the best interest of national security aiming to ensure human security. Another important area of concern should be the internal social crisis which tends to provide ground for crimes to flourish. It is important to keep a check on the hostile elements who might try to gain support of the common people by exploiting the situation e.g. banned extremist groups trying to gain political and social support by raising slogans of “water terrorism” against India.
Interestingly enough the recognition is there but it largely lacks implementation. One gets to hear officials reiterating time and again that Pakistan soon will have to face worst water crisis. It is quite paradoxical that the narrative signifies as if the crisis has not already hit the state. The whole country is suffering from extreme water scarcity. Karachi is bone dry and even in the federal capital Islamabad; the condition is not very encouraging, same is with Balochistan and KPK. Instead of just looking at the lopsided supply and demand equation, it is important to take into account the fact that even the available water is unfit for human consumption resulting in deadly diseases. The need is to reevaluate our economic policies and work towards improving the water governance before the situation hits rock bottom.
State’s primary objective is to make its people feel safe and free from the fear of want and need. Unless and until this approach is adopted, the value of human life will always be compromised. Not just that, it will in turn directly affect security of the state. One cannot deny that militancy and terrorism etc. are looming threats which need extensive military and financial resources but an equal amount of attention is needed to alleviate social sufferings, of which water is the prime challenge. Otherwise there is actually no point in spending so much on defence when there will only be barren arid land and no population left to be defended.
— The writer is a Senior Research Associate at the Strategic Vision Institute, Islamabad.