Water Crisis and Water Management in Pakistan

1- Introduction Water plays a vital role in a country's economy. Water has been critical to the making of human history. The earliest agricultural communities emerged where crops could be cultivated with dependable rainfall and perennial rivers. Simple irrigation canals permitted greater crop production and longer growing seasons in dry areas. Some of the problems faced by the world population are as below. • More than a billion people lack access to clean drinking water, these include people from the sub continent (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh) • Two and half billion people of the world don’t have proper sanitation services • Preventable water related diseases kill a lot of people around the world every day • Many people from Pakistan, India and Bangladesh drink contaminated water • Many developing populations throughout the world are intensifying the pressure on limited water supply Water is a main source of life and unfortunately, that source is becoming extinct in some parts of the world, not that these parts do not have water. Water plays a vital role in a country's economy. Although about 88 per cent of water is used in the agriculture sector, the industry, commerce and public health are also greatly affected by the quantity and quality of the available water. “Water is an essential element for our survival. According to the United Nations Development Program (UNDP 1990), integrated water resources management is based on the perception of water as an integral part of an ecosystem, a natural resource, and a social and economic good. 2- Pakistan: An overview “The Islamic Republic of Pakistan, the second largest South Asian nation, has a total population of 146 million and a land mass of 79.61 million hectares (ha), of which 70 million ha is arid and semi-arid (including 11 million ha of deserts). The country has a great variety of landscapes ranging from the high mountain ranges of the Himalayas, Karakoram and Hindu Kush (HKH region) with interspersed valleys, and the vast rich irrigated Indus plain to the impressively rugged rocky plateaus of Pothwar, Punjab and South West Balochistan. In common with other developing countries, its socio-economic indicators are not encouraging and the incidence of sickness and disease relating to poor hygiene and the use of unsafe water is high” (PCRWCR, page 2). Fig 1 shows a general map of Pakistan showing its main cities and main rivers.


Fig 1: A map of Pakistan showing its main rivers Indus, Chenab, Sutlej and Ravi Source: WATER MANAGEMENT IN PAKISTAN, ISSUES, CONSTRAINTS AND OPTIONS S.A jungeo (page 3) states that Pakistan mainly employs on the agriculture sector, Pakistan’s agriculture, which accounts for about one-quarter of GDP and one-half of employment, depends heavily on irrigation. Irrigated agriculture accounts for about four-fifths of the total cropped area of 51 million acres and the bulk of value-added in agriculture. It is by far the dominant user of available water supply, accounting for 98 percent of direct flows and the bulk of re-flows. “Unfortunately, while Pakistan is blessed with adequate surface and groundwater resources, rapid population growth, urbanization and unsustainable water consumption practices have placed immense stress on the quality as well as the quantity of water resources in the country. Deterioration in water quality and contamination of lakes, rivers and groundwater aquifers has resulted in increased waterborne diseases and other health impacts” (wwf, page4). In the same report S.A (page 4) Junjeo states that Pakistani people are facing most of the problems mentioned in the introduction. People of big cities are facing limited water supply. Some parts of Pakistan are facing contaminated


water supply, which are causing water related diseases. The relationships between the provinces are at an all time low just because of the mismanagement of the water resources. “The irrigation sector is not getting the water for the crops at the right time which is affecting their income. There is some tension between the industrial and the agricultural sector as both blames each other for the wastage of water” (Kamal. A, page 3). There is pressure on the government by these two sectors to build more water reservoirs and catchments area for water storage.

3- Water Resources “Pakistan’s water resources include rainfall, surface water and groundwater. Rainfall is low and irregular. Annual rainfall ranges from less than 100 mm in the south to about 1,500 mm in the north on the southern slopes of the Himalayas. It generally decreases from the Himalayas towards the south, with the lowest rainfall occurring in southern Punjab and upper Sindh. About 70 per cent of the annual rainfall occurs from July to September (the monsoon period). This causes the loss of most of the run-off to the sea without any economic benefit to the country” (Rillera, paragraph 6). The contribution of rain to crops in the irrigated areas (16 million ha) of the Indus basin has been estimated to be 9.24 billion m3 or 7.55 million acre/feet. In nonirrigated areas, rainfall is utilized for rain-fed agriculture and meeting the drinking water needs of the population and livestock. The contribution of rain to crops in the non-irrigated areas has been estimated at 7.34 billion m3 (6 million acre/feet) (data from WWF Pakistan). The surface water resources depend on the Indus River and the five major tributaries, the Jhelum, Chenab, Ravi, Beas and Sutlej, on its eastern side. “Since the Indus Basin Treaty between India and Pakistan in 1960, the availability of water to Pakistan has become limited to the three western rivers of Indus, Jhelum and Chenab, which provide about 173 billion m3 of water annually” (Prof Dr K M khan, page 1). “The stress on water resources of the country is from multiple sources. Rapid urbanization, increased industrial activity and dependence of the agricultural sector on chemicals and fertilizers have led to water pollution. Deterioration in water quality and contamination of lakes, rivers and groundwater aquifers has resulted in increased water borne diseases and negative impacts on human health” (S.A junjeo page 5).


There are some big dams and catchments areas in Pakistan which are providing over 70% of the total water and electricity to the country. Some of those dams are as below.

Fig 2: Mangla dam
Source: www.descon.com.pk

Fig 3: Rawal Lake
Source: www.descon.com.pk


Fig 4: Tarbela dam
Source: www.descon.com.pk

4- The current situation “The issue of increasing water scarcity and mismanagement has been of great concern to the government, private organization, non-government organizations, and people themselves in Pakistan. The intensity of problem is becoming severe as the population is increasing, resources are shrinking or mismanaged, especially in the arid regions of Pakistan. Usually in arid regions, the human settlement pattern also makes it difficult for governments to provide water to everybody especially for human consumption purpose” (Khalid page 2). According to the report by wapda, Pakistan will face a deficit of 12 million tons in total grain production in the year 2012-13 which is 31% of projected target. Such a large scale deficit cannot be bridged simply by improving farming practices and technology. The irrigation supplies scenario, by the year 2012-13, would be critical, and it will become increasingly disastrous year-by-year thereafter. Hence there is urgent need of more storage dams. Limited water resources availability, inappropriate actions of remedies including high cost to develop new resources makes the situation difficult in the arid 5

regions especially when tackled by the government. The competition among different uses is also increasing in these regions. The problem is further aggravated by poor implementation and maintenance of this precious resource especially when addressed by public sector alone under the conventional approaches on purely technical basis. According to the report by Kamal (page 3) the waters of the Indus River and its tributaries feed the largest integrated irrigation network in the world, Pakistan’s irrigation system. It includes three major storage reservoirs, namely Tarbela, Chasma, and Mangla, 19 barrages (gated diversion wiers), 12 inter-river canals, 43 independent irrigation canal commands, and over 107,000 watercourses. The combined length of canals is 61,000 kilometers. In addition, watercourses, farm channels, and field ditches cover another 1.6 million kilometers. The system draws an average of 106 million acre feet of surface water annually for irrigation and is supplemented by annual groundwater pumping of about 43 million acre feet. Fig 2 shows the Indus River and its tributaries.



5- The Problem According to the kalabagh dam project report by WAPDA (water and power authority) (page 3)it is clearly stated that with increasing population and depleting water resources, Pakistan is fast heading towards a situation of water shortage and threat of famine. Per capita surface water availability for irrigation was 5260 cubic meters per year in 1951. It has reduced to 1100 cubic meters per capita in 2006. The minimum water requirement to avoid being a water short country is 1,000 cubic meters per capita per year. As such in the year 2012, Pakistan will have reached the stage of acute water shortage, where people flight for every drop of water. Fresh storages, therefore, have to be created by building dams to replenish the lost capacity and save Pakistan’s agricultural economy from total disaster, and produce food grains for rapidly increasing population. Another point raised in the report is the mismanagement and misuse of water (data from the kalabagh dam report). “Mismanagement in the production and delivery of this valuable resource has compounded the problem. Many public investments in irrigation and drainage were inappropriately designed, expensively implemented, and are being poorly operated and maintained. Expenditures on operations and maintenance are woefully inadequate and user fees are low or non-existent, especially for the drainage infrastructure. As a result, despite huge public investments in irrigation and drainage, the resulting infrastructure is in a state of disrepair” (S.A junjeo, page 4). From an overview of the report by “Dr khalid mehmood “ it is stated that by operating a vast, inefficient and interconnected irrigation system, interwoven with an inefficient, inadequate and discontinuous drainage system, has led to unreliable and inequitable water distribution and the gradual rising of the water table and associated salinity. Large amount of water is being used by the manufacturing industry of Pakistan, which instead of being recycled after use is released into the drainage system. The issues and problems, which are being raised by the mismanagement, are as follows. • • • • • • • • Shortages of water due to inadequate storage facility Mismanagement of water distribution, operation and maintenance of the irrigation network Low productivity per unit of water Non-adoption of efficient conservation technologies Low irrigation efficiency Water quality deterioration (inefficient disposal and handling) Over-pumping and groundwater mining Mixing of fresh and saline aquifers with saltwater up-coning 7

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Lack of legislation on groundwater utilization Water logging and salinity including disposal of saline drainage effluents Pollution and degradation of wetlands Sedimentation of storage reservoirs Lack of research on ice and snow hydrology Non-participation of beneficiaries in project identification, development and management A lack of coordination among research and development agencies A lack of public awareness and education about water conservation

“Due to lack of maintenance and awareness in the communities, water losses in the existing water supply system are in excess of 40 %. The individual waste water disposal system are often in poor condition with overflow discharged into open canals and drainage network causing contamination of surrounding ground water aquifers” (Azim, page 5). 6- The Approach Yes building more reservoirs and catchments area will overcome this problem, which Pakistan is currently facing, but until those reservoirs are built, something has to be done to solve the problem. There are many ways to solve this problem like de sedimentation of the canal system. In this report, more concentration will be on the following issues. • • • • • A lack of public awareness and education about water conservation Mismanagement of water distribution, operation and maintenance of the irrigation network A lack of coordination among research and development agencies Water quality deterioration (inefficient disposal and handling) Over-pumping and groundwater mining

6.1- A lack of public awareness and education about water conversation “The main problem being faced by the Pakistani people are that they have taken water for granted. Population is playing a major role in that as well. As the population grows the demand for water increases as well. On paper, it looks nice and easy to introduce public awareness about water conservation, but in reality, it is far more difficult than that. To increase public awareness among the people a program must be developed” (Rosemann, 2005, page 4) This program should outline the key aspects like • Water is a precious source which the country is running out off • What can be done to save water


increase awareness about effects of water wastage

This is just the start if proper education is given to the people about the water conservation than the government can save a lot of water.

6.2 Mismanagement of water distribution and maintenance of the irrigation network Mismanagement of water can raise many problems as discussed earlier. “Lack of trust among the states especially between Punjab and Sindh is at the heart of the water management issues in Pakistan. These issues are mainly caused by the mismanagement as both states blame each other for mishandling of water for irrigation purposes” (PILDA, page 18). The federal government can overcome these issues if it intervenes. “Another main problem that is caused by this is the water losses through the unsatisfactory irrigation network. In some parts of the country, the government is changing mud canals into brick canals. Fig 4 shows two canals, a mud canal and brick canal. It also shows that this is a good way to save water, which otherwise seeps in the earth and mixes with underground water table. If this process of maintaining, the irrigation system can be carried out in the whole country than the government can save a lot of water” (davis and cornwell page 263).



6.3- A lack of coordination among research and development agencies The development agencies and the research groups have no coordination. There are many technologies being developed at research level but due to lack of coordination, those technologies never developed at a commercial stage. “If the government wants to save water at a large scale than these agencies must work together to produce and develop new water conservation technologies” (wwf, page 7). 6.4- Water quality deterioration (inefficient disposal and handling) Both the government and the industrial sector are to blame for this. “The industrial sector in Pakistan never treated its waster and just released it directly into the mainstream. These caused environmental problems as the water became contaminated. The other problem was the disposal of water on land, which caused salinity due to the chemicals present. The contaminated water was unable to use for drinking or irrigation purposes” (Rillera, paragraph 3). The government was to blame here as well as it turned a blind eye towards the industrial sector. 6.5- Over-pumping and groundwater mining To overcome the water crisis the farmers have put tube wells to compensate for the water shortages. More than half of the tube wells in Pakistan are in Punjab. Tube wells are lowering water tables and depleting aquifers, making it impossible or costlier for others to pump water. Salinity is also a big problem that is caused by ground water mining. Fig 5 shows the ground water mining.



7- The Solution Everyone in Pakistan thinks that building new reservoirs is the only solution for the water crisis in Pakistan. Almost every government that comes into power says the same thing that Pakistan needs new dams. Water management is becoming a big political issue in Pakistan. There is tension between the states as mentioned earlier over the water issue. The solution, which is being suggested in this report, is not to build new reservoirs but to work with the current infra structure, which Pakistan currently got. “In long run, reservoirs are necessary but until those reservoirs are built, a solution is needed for the water crisis” (report 1 15310-pak). This crisis can be overcome with the proper management of the factors mentioned in the approach as all the factors mentioned above are interrelated. According to junjeo, some of the issues can be overcome and a lot of water can be saved if proper awareness programs are available for the public, industrial, and the agricultural sector by the government sector. The government has to treat every sector differently. For industrial sectors, they have to emphasize more on the water recycling and water treatment. For agricultural sector, they have to increase awareness about the advantages and disadvantages of over-pumping ground water. Proper management of the research and development agencies by the government can create and develop new water conservation technologies. This could be implemented in the water market like new water treatment and recycling techniques for the industrial sector. New ways of water monitoring for the agricultural sector. “The government regarding the disposal of wastewater should introduce new laws. These laws should be forced on the industrial sector as the untreated water causes health hazards and by forcing recycling, the industrial sector can save a lot of water” (Azim, no date, page 2). NRM tools which can help achieve this solution This solution can be achieved by the proper implementation of natural resource management tool like integration, regional catchment strategy and Millennium Ecosystem Assessment. Integration “A lack of integration among local, government and civil institutions can mainly lead to bigger problems. The approach discussed in this report cannot be properly implemented until there is integration between the bodies responsible for the problem. With proper integration, the problem can be solved to a certain extent until new reservoirs are built” Daniel no date page 3). The integration


among the government, local bodies and the water authorities can lead to a better water management plan. The factors discusses in approach can be executed better by implementing integration.

Regional catchment strategy A very important NRM tool which can help to solve this problem. To implement this, the water authorities must work together with the local government to devise out a plan to implement this. According to Kamal a very good example for regional catchment strategy is the Rawal Lake which supplies water to Rawalpindi and Islamabad. Totally managed by the local municipal corporation of Rawalpindi and Islamabad this lake boosts excellent water supply for both cities. Millennium Ecosystem Assessment Third tool to be used can be the most important if implemented correctly. By using this tool it can be concluded that what are the hazards of a particular water project before the implementation. It can go right or can go horribly wrong. At the end, it all comes back to the government, private, industrial and the agricultural sector working together to overcome the water shortage. The people should be made aware of the hazards of wasting water. 8- Conclusion This report deals with water crisis in Pakistan. It describes Pakistan’s water resources, what state they are now. It describes the current situation, which Pakistan is facing now. It also describes the problems, which are rising from these conditions. This report gives a new approach and solution to these problems from a different view. Instead of telling to build new reservoirs, it is suggested in this report that some of these problems can be overcome by implementing proper water management. This report describes how these approaches can be implemented and a solution can be obtained with the help of NRM tools discussed.


References • Azim. T, Urban water problems in Asian big cities Pakistan, 13th international symposium of national land development and civil engineering in Asia, no date, page 2 Daniel h. Walker, Andrew k.l. Johnson, Jennifer a. Bellamy, integrating r&d into decision-making for natural resource management in coastal northern Australia, no date, page 3 Davis L.M, Cornwell David A, Introduction to Environmental Engineering 2nd edition, page 263, McGraw-hill 1991 Kalabagh Dam project, march www.wapda.gov.pk/pdf/KBDAM.pdf, page 3 2001, Wapda,

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Kamal. A, Pakistan: lai nullah basin flood problem Islamabad – Rawalpindi cities, Federal Flood Commission, Government of Pakistan, 2004, page 3 PCRWCR, strategic plan of the pakistan council of research in water resources, no date, page 2 PILDA, Issues of Water Resources in Pakistan, 2003, www.pildat.org, page 18 Prof. Dr. Khalid Mahmood Khan, water management in Pakistan, issues, constraints and options, page 2, University of Arid Agriculture, Rawalpindi Pakistan Report No. l 15310-PAK, Pakistan: National Drainage Program Project, Staff Appraisal Report, The World Bank, September 25, 1997 Rosemann. N, Drinking Water Crisis in Pakistan and the Issue of Bottled Water the Case of Nestlé’s ‘Pure Life, Action aid Pakistan, April 2005,page 4

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Rillera, E.G, PAKISTAN Irrigation Project Sparks Social, Environmental Issues, ADB, April 2001, paragraph 3, 6 S.A junjeo, improving water resource management in Pakistan, no date, no publisher, page 4, 7 UNDP (United Nations Development Program), 1990. Safe Water 2000, New York WWF Pakistan, Pakistan’s water at risk, water and health related issues in Pakistan and key issues, , 2007, page 4, 7 www.descon.com.pk


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