Pakistan has been moving faster and faster towards becoming a water-scarce country. At the time of its creation, the water available to Pakistan per capita was 5,000 cubic meters. This has now gone down to around 1,000 cubic metres. How does the country get out of this situation? According to experts, there are two ways out. One, we need to take concrete measures to stop the melting of Himalayan glaciers. That will include making new legislation and making efforts towards regional cooperation. To understand this situation, water experts have also compared Pakistan, India, China, Nepal and Tibet to five blind men trying to describe an elephant. The point is that there is currently no system to share information between the countries, which makes it impossible to accurately understand what is happening with the Himalayan glaciers. The other way out is to reduce on an emergency basis the extraction of underground water. When the Indus Waters Treaty was signed, 3,000 tubewells were set up in Pakistan to compensate for the lost water. By now, the number of tubewells is more than a million. This is the consequence of the absence of regulatory frameworks. The result is a declining water table and the possibility of the ground sinking.
Both are solid points to allow us to begin managing our water resources in a better manner. Furthermore, there is a need to categorise the type of water available. Over the last decade, Pakistan has been caught in a cycle of drought and floods. What our policymakers must understand – and soon – is that the threat posed by water scarcity is very real. According to the World Bank, severe water shortages could knock off six percent of the world’s GDP by 2050. The effect is predicted to be particularly severe on Pakistan, India, China, the Middle East and Africa. Already, around 1.6 billion people in the world live in a state of water scarcity. The recent water shortages in Karachi and Hyderabad and also in Thar only serve to illustrate how severe the impact of water shortage will be on. What is unique about our region is that 95 percent of our water resources are shared by the regional countries. This makes it essential to develop a regional approach to the issue as our futures are connected with each other. The available of water is the precondition to any future at all. The need for emergency measures should be clear to all. What should also be clear is that world’s water woes are connected to climate change; this situation will continue to deteriorate if we don’t move now to at least stop further climate-change impacts.