The heat is on and there is no escaping the fact that the volume of complaints, which always go with it are louder than ever and that this summer is set to be highly explosive in more ways than one.
People all over the country are already screaming for water that should, after an unusually long wet winter with a ‘decent’ amount of snow and a surprisingly wet spring in the all-important water catchment areas, be available in abundance but it is not and one has to wonder why not and where the hell it all went too!
Water catchment facilities have always been ridiculously inadequate in Pakistan where forward planning does not realistically exist, but even this does not account for why, right now, water shortages are crippling in the extreme. This should not be the case at all and those in the relevant positions to do so should look into the matter, thoroughly, find out what is going so badly wrong and put it to rights before the next lot of God given rainfall mysteriously disappears too.
Whatever the reason for this unforgivable anomaly, the situation is exacerbated by misuse and an utter disregard for water by the population of the country as a whole as 99 percent of the residents of this - ‘the land of the pure’ - simply take this increasingly precious commodity for granted and will continue doing so until the rivers, dams, streams, reservoirs, water pipes and taps run completely and irrevocably dry.
No one, but no one, appears concerned that as a direct result of climate change, Pakistan is way up towards the very top of the list of countries to be adversely affected in the very near future, the wells are going to run dry and no one, especially this apology for a government that should be hung, drawn and quartered for a multitude of ‘misdemeanours’, apparently gives a damn!
Industries waste incredible amounts of water 24/7, 365 days of the year and householders are no better in that water wastage is the rule, rather than the exception it needs to be if we are all to survive in the long term. The sustainability of the country and the sustainability of life as we know it all, when it comes right down to the nitty-gritty basics of existence, depend on water: water is needed right down the line from food production to the washing of hands and without it, as some people should already understand, there will be absolutely zilch.
One can, people always do, point fingers and unleash their ire at the authorities supposedly ‘concerned’ yet, if, by some miracle or other, water does eventually dribble out of the tap or is purchased, at exorbitant rates, from the tanker mafia, the very first thing that happens is that a hefty percentage of it is promptly wasted. Cars are hosed down; lush green lawns are hosed or sprinkled at will; leaky pipes spray water all over the place; taps drip around the clock; long, long showers are luxuriated in the morning, noon and night; day in, day out, taps are left running without a second thought and so the disgustingly thoughtless list goes on and on and on.
In mohallahs where water scarcity is a perennial problem people tend to be careful. But elsewhere, irrespective of whether the wasters are educated or not, water is treated with the disrespect it does not deserve and something must be done, immediately if not sooner, to make the population comprehend that they are, to a high degree, largely responsible for their own predicament.
Water shortages should not be perceived as purely a seasonal problem either: the problem is perennial. The more water people waste in times of what appears to be ‘plenty’ - the less water there is to go around in times of drought. Advising people not to waste water when temperatures soar, as they increasingly do and if climate change forecasters are correct, which they probably are, and the planet is to experience an appreciable rise in temperature, they will do so more and longer than ever before, is simply not enough to balance scales that have not come even close to being balanced since the country came into existence so many long years ago.
Water is life. Water is food. Water is everything that we need, if we are to survive. To waste water, even a single drop, is to commit suicide on a massive scale and suicide, as everyone should be aware, is against all the tenets of Islam as well as against all the recognised tenets of humanity. Something must be done, perhaps a mass programme of education for a start and, if that does not make a dent in the currently untenable situation, then, much as the suggestion goes against the grain as it is obviously wide open to misuse, huge fines, not tiddly little ones, must be imposed right across-the-board and right up to the ‘highest’ in the land.
n The writer is author of The Gun Tree: One Woman’s War (Oxford University Press, 2001) and lives in Bhurban.