Managing Water

From flash floods on one extreme to not enough water for the crops, climate change manifestations are varied for Pakistan, but not unmanageable. The warning of the Indus River System Authority (IRSA) that a 30% water shortage is expected and hence the farmers will have to deal with the shortage as they sow new crops of cotton, rice, and maize reflects the challenges changes in climate bring along. Pakistan received less snowfall this year and coupled with the fact that higher temperatures are now expected from April-September, it is easier to understand why we are heading towards a water shortage. However, no problem comes without a solution.

In the memory of every Pakistani, the talk of dams and water reser­voirs perhaps exists as a constant buzzing sound. It goes without saying we still have not built those reservoirs which will save us from calling an emergency session and apprising all departments to fasten seat­belts for a water-scarce Kharif season. The problem has existed longer than we remember. At first, we needed dams to avoid the devastation of floods. Now we need them to cope up with reduced water tables caused by extreme temperatures. In both cases, water reservoirs are the solu­tion. Climate change is here to stay, which means it is rather foolish to expect that the issue of water shortage will go away on its own.

Every successive year will get tough, as the projections of climate change go. Pakistan is vulnerable and one of the countries that are at the forefront of carrying the climate change stress. We need to have a clear policy, even if we are short of funds. Having a vision, and an in­frastructural map laid down is the first step. Once that is done, funding can be chased and acquired from development donors. The IRSA ses­sion was more of a ‘the calamity is unavoidable so let’s see how we can sail through this season.’ But there are many more seasons to come.

If the water tables reduce successively with each season, and this is the expected most obvious pattern, a last-minute ‘let this season pass somehow’ strategy will fall short. Sooner or later, we need water res­ervoirs, and it will be better if this is done sooner than later.

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