Water man­age­ment

The Pak Banker - - FRONT PAGE -

Brief­ing the Spe­cial Se­nate Com­mit­tee re­cently the In­dus River Sys­tem Author­ity (Irsa) re­vealed that as per pre­lim­i­nary anal­y­sis of data, it is an­tic­i­pated that the water deficit may re­sult in 35-45 per­cent short­fall dur­ing the forth­com­ing Rabi sea­son 2018-19.TheTar­bela Dam has now achieved max­i­mum con­ser­va­tion level of 1150 feet, mean­ing that the draw­down for ir­ri­ga­tion dur­ing the cur­rent Kharif sea­son would mostly re­main con­tained. To­tal stor­age in reser­voirs stand at about 9.255 mil­lion acre feet (MAF) or 32.4 per­cent short of to­tal ca­pac­ity, which was 13.681 MAF. The re­serves at this stage last year were 12.080 MAF or al­most 24 per­cent lower than the ca­pac­ity.

Ac­cord­ing to a re­port, Pak­istan is los­ing al­most 50 per­cent of its to­tal water avail­abil­ity de­spite in­fra­struc­ture de­vel­op­ment of bil­lions of dol­lars by the fed­eral gov­ern­ment. How­ever, the lack of match­ing ef­forts by prov­inces has ren­dered this in­vest­ment use­less. An ex­am­ple is of Darawat Dam in Jamshoro, Kachhi Canal in South­ern Pun­jab and Baluchis­tan and a small dam in KPK where only 5 to 6 per­cent of the en­vis­aged ben­e­fits could be reaped. To­tal water re­sources avail­able in the coun­try are 138 MAF with a stor­age ca­pac­ity of only 13.7 MAF, i.e., 10 per­cent of the avail­able to­tal re­sources. Pak­istan could store water for a max­i­mum of 35 to 36 days which is way less than the rest of the world. In­dia's stor­age how­ever could last for as many as 320 days.

The brief­ing of Irsa to the Se­nate Com­mit­tee on Water Se­cu­rity and ob­ser­va­tions by the Sec­re­tary, Water Re­sources clearly point to a very de­press­ing pic­ture of the water man­age­ment in the coun­try. The quan­tity of rain­fall is en­dowed by na­ture, and, there­fore, can­not be al­tered but other el­e­ments de­ter­min­ing the pro­duc­tiv­ity of crops could cer­tainly be changed by hu­man ef­forts. It is sad to note that af­ter a bad Kharif sea­son, Pak­istan may be brav­ing for upto 40 per­cent water short­age in the up­com­ing Rabi sea­son that would ad­versely af­fect coun­try's agri­cul­tural out­put. The to­tal stor­age in all the reser­voirs is not more than two-thirds full. It is also sad that Pak­istan has not been able to build any ad­di­tional ca­pac­ity for stor­age of water de­spite be­ing an agri­cul­tural coun­try.

The fed­eral gov­ern­ment has been ac­tive in the field but match­ing ef­forts have not been made by prov­inces al­though the fed­er­at­ing units are key play­ers and re­quired to take the nec­es­sary steps. In or­der to reach a con­sen­sus on the is­sue, four ses­sions with all the Chief Min­is­ters were held un­der the Coun­cil of Com­mon In­ter­est (CCI) and a Na­tional Water Pol­icy was evolved, com­mit­ting the prov­inces to con­serve at least 33 per­cent of the water by 2030. There is also a need to con­serve water to the max­i­mum. At present, 90-95 per­cent of the coun­try's water is be­ing used for ir­ri­ga­tion and 50 per­cent of this is lost dur­ing canal di­ver­sion works. The coun­try, as a last op­tion, could in­stall de­sali­na­tion plants in case of acute water short­age but this method of ir­ri­ga­tion is too costly to be im­ple­mented.

It is, how­ever, very good to see that, re­al­iz­ing the grav­ity of sit­u­a­tion, the prime min­is­ter and the Chief Jus­tice of the apex court are work­ing on the is­sue on war foot­ing and have ap­pealed to all the Pak­ista­nis, in­clud­ing ex­pa­tri­ates, to con­trib­ute to the ef­fort. How much money will be col­lected to build new dams is dif­fi­cult to say but aware­ness about the is­sue will cer­tainly be cre­ated at ev­ery tier of so­ci­ety. There is of course no doubt that agri­cul­ture sec­tor plays a cen­tral role in the econ­omy, con­tribut­ing 19 per­cent of GDP and ab­sorb­ing 42.3 per­cent of the labour force. It is also an im­por­tant source of for­eign ex­change earn­ings; it stim­u­lates growth in other sec­tors. In or­der to re­al­ize the full po­ten­tial of the agri­cul­tural sec­tor, there is also a need, be­sides ad­e­quate avail­abil­ity of water, to con­serve water through var­i­ous means such as sprin­kling and re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion of ir­ri­ga­tion and drainage in­fra­struc­ture. More­over, agri­cul­ture mod­erni­sa­tion is es­sen­tial for enhancing in­te­gra­tive agri­cul­ture pro­duc­tion ca­pac­ity which, along­with crop science, can give a mas­sive boost to our crop yield. Im­prov­ing credit ac­cess for farm­ers is also im­por­tant in this re­gard.

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