Water crisis: Why is Pakistan running dry? | DW | 07.06.2018 (2022)

Pakistan could "run dry" by 2025 as its water shortage is reaching an alarming level. The authorities remain negligent about the crisis that's posing a serious threat to the country's stability, reports Shah Meer Baloch.

According to a recent report by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Pakistan ranks third in the world among countries facing acute water shortage. Reports by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Pakistan Council of Research inWater Resources (PCRWR) also warn the authorities that the South Asian country will reach absolute water scarcity by 2025.

"No person in Pakistan, whether from the north with its more than 5,000 glaciers, or from the south with its 'hyper deserts,' will be immune to this [scarcity]," said Neil Buhne, UN humanitarian coordinator for Pakistan.

Researchers predict that Pakistan is on its way to becomingthe most water-stressed country in the region by the year 2040.

It is not the first time that development and research organizations have alerted Pakistani authorities about an impending crisis, which some analysts say poses a bigger threat to the country than terrorism.

In 2016, PCRWR reported that Pakistan touched the "water stress line" in 1990 and crossed the "water scarcity line" in 2005. If this situation persists, Pakistan is likely to face an acute water shortage or a drought-like situation in the near future, according toPCRWR, which is affiliated withthe South Asian country's Ministry of Science and Technology.

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A water-intensive country

Pakistan has the world's fourth-highest rate of water use. Its water intensity rate —the amount of water, in cubic meters, used per unit of GDP —is the world's highest. This suggests that no country's economy is more water-intensive than Pakistan's.

According to the IMF, Pakistan's per capita annual water availability is 1,017 cubic meters —perilously close to the scarcity threshold of 1,000 cubic meters. Back in 2009, Pakistan's water availability was about 1,500 cubic meters.

The bulk of Pakistan's farmland is irrigated through a canal system, but the IMF says in a report that canal water is vastly underpriced, recovering only a quarter of annual operating and maintenance costs. Meanwhile, agriculture, which consumes almost all annual available surface water, is largely untaxed.

Experts say that population growth and urbanization are the main reasons behind the crisis. The issue has also been exacerbated by climate change, poor water managementand a lack of political will to deal with the crisis.

"Pakistan is approaching the scarcity threshold for water. What is even more disturbing is that groundwater supplies —the last resort of water supply —are being rapidly depleted. And worst of all is that the authorities have given no indication that they plan to do anything about any of this," Michael Kugelman, South Asia expert at the Washington-based Woodrow Wilson Center, told DW in a 2015 interview.

Qazi Talhat, a secretary at the Ministry of Water Resources, told DW the situation is "scary" for Pakistan.

Water scarcity is also triggering security conflicts in the country. Experts say the economic impact of the water crisis is immense, and the people are fighting for resources.

Climate change

(Video) Poisonous and running out: Pakistan's water crisis

Water scarcity in Pakistan has been accompanied by rising temperatures. In May, at least 65 people died from heatstroke in the southern city of Karachi. In 2015, at least 1,200 people died during a spate of extremely hot weather.

"Heat waves and droughts in Pakistan are a result of climate change," Mian Ahmed Naeem Salik, an environmental expert and research fellow at the Institute of Strategic Studies in Islamabad, told DW.

"The monsoon season has become erratic in the past few years. The winter season has shrunk from four to two months in many parts of the country. On top of it, Pakistan cannot save floodwater due to a scarcity of dams," Salik said. "At the time of Pakistan's birth in 1947, forests accounted for about 5 percent of the nation's area, but they have now dropped to only 2 percent.Pakistan must invest in building water reservoirs and plant more trees," he added.

Read more:How climate change is aggravating Pakistan's water crisis

Water scarcity in Pakistan has been accompanied by rising temperatures

Water politics

The Tarbela and Mangla dams, the country's two major water reservoirs, reached their "dead" levels last week, according to media reports. The news sparked a debate on social media over the inaction of authorities in the face of this crisis.

"We have only two big reservoirs and we can save water only for 30 days. India can store water for 190 days whereas the US can do it for 900 days," Muhammad Khalid Rana, a spokesman for the Indus River System Authority (IRSA), told DW.

"Pakistan receives around 145 million acre feet of water every year but can only save 13.7 million acre feet. Pakistan needs 40 million acre feet of water but 29 million acre feet of our floodwater is wasted because we have few dams. New Delhi raised this issue with international bodies, arguing that it should be allowed to use the western rivers because Pakistan can't use them properly," Rana said.

In1960, the World Bank brokered the Indus Water Treaty (IWT) that gives Pakistan exclusive rights to use the region's western rivers —Indus, Jhelum and Chenaub —while India has the authority over three eastern rivers.

The Pakistani government says New Delhi is not fulfilling its responsibilities under the IWT as it voices concerns over India's construction of new dams. New Delhi is building the Kishangaga hydroelectric plant in the north of Bandipore in India-administered Jammu and Kashmir region. In May, Islamabad approached the World Bank complaining that India violated the IWT by building the damon a Jehlum River basin, which it lays claim on.

Kugelman says that the Pakistani authorities need to step up efforts to overcome the water crisis, which is partly man-made. "First of all, Pakistan's leaders and stakeholders need to take ownership of this challenge and declare their intention to tackle it. Simply blaming previous governments, or blaming India, for the crisis won't solve anything. Next, the government needs to institute a major paradigm shift that promotes more judicious use of water," Kugelman emphasized.

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Water problems are also triggering security conflicts in the country

Wastage of water

Apart from the water storage issue, experts say that water wastage is also a big issue in the country. Abid Suleri, executive director of the Islamabad-based Sustainable Development Policy Institute, says the mismanagement takes place at many levels.

As the water crisis worsens in Pakistan, foreign diplomats and activists have taken to social media, urging people to save water.

"Using a bucket to save water while washing my car! #Pakistan ranks third amongst countries facing water shortage. One major reason is excessive use. 100 liters wasted washing a car with running tap water. Many ways to #SaveWater in our daily life! #SaveWaterforPak," Martin Kobler, German ambassador to Pakistan, wrote on Twitter.

In April, former PM Shahid Khaqan Abbasi announced Pakistan's first National Water Policy, promising consolidated efforts to tackle the water crisis.

But experts are skeptical about the authorities will to deal with the issue. The country will hold general elections on July 25 and there is an interim government currently in place. Water crisis is a priority neither for the caretaker government nor for the political parties contesting the polls.

Climate change hits women harder

Water scarcity in Pakistan – A bigger threat than terrorismA UNDP report says that Pakistani authorities are negligent about an impending water crisis that is posing a serious threat to the country's stability. Experts say the South Asian country is likely to dry up by 2025. (07.02.2017)
(Video) Pakistan Burns At 50°C: Can It Turn The Heat Down On Climate Change? | Insight
  • Date07.06.2018
  • AuthorShah Meer Baloch (Islamabad)
  • Related SubjectsAsia, Pakistan, COP 26: Everything you need to know, Climate change
  • KeywordsAsia,Pakistan,water crisis,water scarcity,dams,Climate Change,heat wave
  • Feedback: Send us your feedback.
  • PrintPrint this page
  • Permalinkhttps://p.dw.com/p/2z568

FAQs

Why does Pakistan have lack of water? ›

Pakistan's water crisis is explained mainly by rapid population growth followed by climate change (floods and droughts), poor agricultural sector water management, inefficient infrastructure and water pollution. This in a result is also aggravating internal tensions between provinces.

Why Pakistan is running dry? ›

Experts say that population growth and urbanization are the main reasons behind the crisis. The issue has also been exacerbated by climate change, poor water management and a lack of political will to deal with the crisis. "Pakistan is approaching the scarcity threshold for water.

How long till Pakistan runs out of water? ›

Pakistan's water taps to run dry by 2025.

Is Pakistan running out of water? ›

Pakistan is facing an acute water shortage, with experts saying the country could run out of water by 2040 if authorities don't take long-term measures to deal with the problem. Researchers predict that Pakistan is on its way to becoming the most water-stressed country in the region by the year 2040.

Which country is facing water shortage? ›

These Countries Are the Most at Risk From a Water Crisis
RankCountryRisk Level
1QatarExtremely High
2IsraelExtremely High
3LebanonExtremely High
4IranExtremely High
91 more rows
6 Aug 2019

What is the main source of water in Pakistan? ›

The Indus River is the major source of water for the more than 180 million people of Pakistan. A rapidly increasing population over the past 60 years has created new pressures on water that was once a plentiful resource for the health and development of the country.

What are the main causes of water crisis? ›

What's causing the global water crisis?
  • Climate change. Unsurprisingly, climate change is one of the main reasons behind the global water crisis. ...
  • Natural disasters. ...
  • War and conflict. ...
  • Wastewater. ...
  • Water waste. ...
  • Lack of water data. ...
  • Lack of international cooperation on shared water sources. ...
  • Lack of infrastructure.
22 Mar 2022

How much water is wasted in Pakistan? ›

Moreover, Pakistan continues to waste thirty million acre-foot or ten trillion gallons of water per annum which can be used to quench the thirst of masses while revolutionising the agricultural and industrial sectors, he added.

Why the groundwater in Pakistan is getting lower? ›

Due to excessive pumping, Pakistan's groundwater abstraction rates have exceeded the annual recharge rate of 55 cubic kilometres per year. Consequently, groundwater tables are lowering rapidly in different parts of the country.

What is water life of Pakistan? ›

Currently, Pakistan is categorized as a water-scarce country because the yearly water availability is less than 1,000 cubic meters per person. The country crossed this level in 2005. If it reaches 500 cubic meters, it will become a country that is absolute scarce of water by 2025.

What are the reasons behind running short of electricity and water in Pakistan? ›

Power sector financial problems stem primarily from weak governance, mismanagement and inappropriate public policies that do not adjust the prices charged to consumers despite a significant increase in generation cost.

What is Pakistan's biggest problem? ›

According to Dr. Ishrat Hussain, the notable Pakistani Banker and Economist, the major economic challenges faced by Pakistan are poverty, unemployment, huge foreign debts, low investment, and high fiscal debt. Economic Instability is, without an iota of doubt, one of the major social problems of Pakistan right now.

Why does Pakistan need more dams? ›

By providing a place for rainfall to collect during the wet season, since it often doesn't seep into the soil due to the preparation of the land over the years from agriculture, dams allow Pakistan to simultaneously guard against floods and increase the water it has available.

How many dams does Pakistan need? ›

Pakistan is an agricultural country, depending heavily on water resources for irrigation. Interestingly, Pakistan has around 150 dams spread across all the provinces. These dams are not only a source of electricity and water supply but they also act as perfect vacationing spots for the locals.

What percent of Pakistan is water? ›

Water supply and sanitation in Pakistan
Pakistan: Water and Sanitation
Water coverage (broad definition)3.97% (2020) Safely managed: 35.84% Basic: 54.31% Limited: 3.82%
Sanitation coverage (broad definition)45% (2020)
Continuity of supply (%)Mostly intermittent in urban areas
17 more rows

What is the solution of water crisis? ›

While some human activities have exacerbated the water crisis, humans have also developed technologies to better acquire or conserve freshwater. Solutions to addressing water shortages include dams and reservoirs, rainwater harvesting, aqueducts, desalination, water reuse, and water conservation.

What can be done to improve water supply? ›

Implement rainwater harvesting systems to collect and store rainwater for drinking or recharging underground aquifers. Build wells to extract groundwater from underground aquifers. Provide home water-treatment capability through the use of filters, solar disinfection, or flocculants, to make drinking water safe.

Which country needs water the most? ›

1. Eritrea: 80.7% lack basic water services. The population of Eritrea in East Africa has the least access to clean water close to home.

Which country need more water? ›

Total Renewable Internal Freshwater Resources
CountryTotal renewable water resources (km³)Date of Information
United States3,069
Canada2,9022011
China2,8402011
India2,1612022
151 more rows

Which countries will run out of water first? ›

According to current projections, Cape Town will run out of water in a matter of months. This coastal paradise of 4 million on the southern tip of South Africa is to become the first modern major city in the world to completely run dry.

Which country supplies water to Pakistan? ›

Mostly, the treaty resulted in partitioning of the rivers rather than sharing of their waters. Transition period of 10 years was permitted in which India was bound to supply water to Pakistan from its eastern rivers until Pakistan was able to build the canal system for utilization of waters of the western rivers.

Is Pakistan rich in water resources? ›

However, when a water-surplus country with immense water assets of the Indus River System, Pakistan is presently a water-deficiency country.

Where does a city get its water from in Pakistan? ›

In urban areas, most water is supplied from groundwater except for the cities of Karachi, and a part of Islamabad, where mainly surface water is used. In most rural areas, groundwater is used. In rural areas with saline groundwater, irrigation canals serve as the main source of domestic water.

Will the earth run out of water? ›

While our planet as a whole may never run out of water, it's important to remember that clean freshwater is not always available where and when humans need it. In fact, half of the world's freshwater can be found in only six countries. More than a billion people live without enough safe, clean water.

What happens if we run out of water? ›

If this happened, it wouldn't take long for the common water supply to become unsanitary under these conditions. The polluted water supply would kill aquatic life, further reducing the available food supply. Water-borne diseases, such as diarrhea, would spread.

Is there less water on Earth now? ›

Water flows endlessly between the ocean, atmosphere, and land. Earth's water is finite, meaning that the amount of water in, on, and above our planet does not increase or decrease.

How many people are without water in Pakistan? ›

21.7 million people don't have clean water.

That's 1 in 10 people.

How many Pakistanis have no clean water? ›

Out of the total population of 207 million, 21 million people don't have access to clean water. According to the report, 88.5 percent of people in Pakistan have access to clean water close to home where the richest have more access to clean water as compared to the poor.

What are the effects of water crisis in Pakistan? ›

In Pakistan the water shortfall that was 11% in 2004 will increase to 31% by 2025 (GoP, 2001). Due to this shortage of water and increase in population, there will be a food shortfall of about 70 million tons by 2025 (ADB, 2002).

How much ground water does Pakistan have? ›

The total groundwater potential of Pakistan is about 68 bm3, out of which 60 bm3 is currently exploited [23,25]. This indicates that the groundwater resource is almost exhausted, because the remaining groundwater is in the regions where it is not easy to abstract due to economic and technical reasons [3].

How many tubewell are there in Pakistan? ›

The total population of private tubewells in Pakistan (Punjab, Sindh, NWFP & Balochistan) is estimated to be 629,602, with total groundwater extraction as 47.14 BCM (38.21 MAF).

How many aquifers are there in Pakistan? ›

Water wells are used for extracting water from the aquifers. There are mainly two types of aquifers.
...
AQUIFERS OF PAKISTAN.
Serial No.Pre-Quaternary Sedimentary RocksLocation
1.Ketch ConglomerateRakhshan River Basin
2.Siwalik SandstonePotwar Plateau
3.Multana conglomerateZhob River Basin
26 Jul 2021

Who is responsible for electricity shortage in Pakistan? ›

According to the publication, the shortage of fuel and technical reasons for the shortfall in electricity generations are the main reason behind the shutdown of power plants. Pakistan's hydro-power plant is producing as many as 3,674 MW of electricity, while the government's thermal power plants are generating 786 MW.

What are the reasons behind running short of electricity? ›

There are many causes for why power outages occur. However, the three most common causes are natural causes, human error, and overload. Basically, any interruption between power generation and the supply of electricity to homes can cause a power outage.

What is the solution of energy crisis in Pakistan? ›

Investing in Renewable Energy Industry

Moreover, importing clean coal, which is frequently less expensive than imported oil and gas, will allow Pakistan to first diversify its energy mix. To reduce its dependency on conventional energy sources, Pakistan needs to decrease the demand for the grid station.

Is Pakistan overpopulated? ›

However, Pakistan is among the most overpopulated countries in the world, and it remains the fifth most populous country in the world. The population of Pakistan is 224,770,387 according to the census of May 2021.

Which type of country is Pakistan? ›

Pakistan is a semi-secular, Islamic federal parliamentary republic with Islam as the state religion. Pakistan is a nuclear power. The country's nuclear weapons program was established in 1972. Chief of state is the president, head of government is the prime minister.

Is there gender equality in Pakistan? ›

Gender equality is a central component to development. Yet Pakistan currently ranks the second lowest country in the world for gender equality, according to the Global Gender Gap Index.

Which is the biggest dam in the world? ›

Three Gorges Dam, China is the world's largest hydroelectric facility. Accroding to Wikimedia, the Three Gorges Dam is a hydroelectric gravity dam that spans the Yangtze River by the town of Sandouping, in Yiling District, Yichang, Hubei province, China.

Which is biggest dam in Pakistan? ›

Tarbela Dam is located in Pakistan and is the world's largest fill-type dam. It is built over the River Indus near the small town of Tarbela in the Haripur District of the country.

How much does it cost to create a dam? ›

Average cost to build a dam can vary. An entry level standard farm dam with a water capacity of approximately 2.5mgl will cost around $12,000 subject to site conditions. Mid-size farm dam – 5mgl litres from $20,000, large farm dam – 10mgl from $30,000, XL farm dam – 20mgl litres from $60,000.

Which country has most dams? ›

China is the top country by total dam capacity in the world. As of 2018, total dam capacity in China was 830.5 km3 that accounts for 13.27% of the world's total dam capacity. The top 5 countries (others are Russian Federation, the United States of America, Brazil, and India) account for 52.98% of it.

How many dams does China have? ›

The tallest dams in China are some of the tallest dams in the world. Nearly 22,000 dams over 15 metres (49 ft) in height – about half the world's total – have been constructed in China since the 1950s.

Which is the oldest dam of Pakistan? ›

Warsak Dam
Construction began1949
Opening date1960
Owner(s)Water and Power Development Authority
Dam and spillways
23 more rows

What are the causes of lack of water? ›

Following are some of the major causes of water shortage:
  • Climate change.
  • Natural calamities such as droughts and floods.
  • Increased human consumption.
  • Overuse and wastage of water.
  • A global rise in freshwater demand.
  • Overuse of aquifers and its consequent slow recharge.

How much water is wasted in Pakistan? ›

Moreover, Pakistan continues to waste thirty million acre-foot or ten trillion gallons of water per annum which can be used to quench the thirst of masses while revolutionising the agricultural and industrial sectors, he added.

What are the main causes of water crisis? ›

What's causing the global water crisis?
  • Climate change. Unsurprisingly, climate change is one of the main reasons behind the global water crisis. ...
  • Natural disasters. ...
  • War and conflict. ...
  • Wastewater. ...
  • Water waste. ...
  • Lack of water data. ...
  • Lack of international cooperation on shared water sources. ...
  • Lack of infrastructure.
22 Mar 2022

Is Pakistan water stressed or water scarce? ›

More than 80 percent of the country's population faces “severe water scarcity.” Water availability in Pakistan has plummeted from 5,229 cubic meters per inhabitant in 1962 to just 1,187 in 2017.

Will the earth run out of water? ›

While our planet as a whole may never run out of water, it's important to remember that clean freshwater is not always available where and when humans need it. In fact, half of the world's freshwater can be found in only six countries. More than a billion people live without enough safe, clean water.

How can we save water? ›

25 ways to save water
  1. Check your toilet for leaks. ...
  2. Stop using your toilet as an ashtray or wastebasket. ...
  3. Put a plastic bottle in your toilet tank. ...
  4. Take shorter showers. ...
  5. Install water-saving shower heads or flow restrictors. ...
  6. Take baths. ...
  7. Turn off the water while brushing your teeth. ...
  8. Turn off the water while shaving.

Is the world facing a water crisis? ›

As the global population increases, and resource-intensive economic development continues, many countries' water resources and infrastructure are failing to meet accelerating demand. Climate change is making water scarcity worse. The impacts of a changing climate are making water more unpredictable.

Where does Pakistan get its water? ›

The Indus River is the major source of water for the more than 180 million people of Pakistan.

Is Pakistan rich in water? ›

The report, Pakistan: Getting More from Water, states that while Pakistan, the sixth most populous country in the world, is well-endowed with water, water availability per person is comparatively low. Water wastage is high and agricultural yields are low compared to most countries.

Why the groundwater in Pakistan is getting lower? ›

Due to excessive pumping, Pakistan's groundwater abstraction rates have exceeded the annual recharge rate of 55 cubic kilometres per year. Consequently, groundwater tables are lowering rapidly in different parts of the country.

What happens if we run out of water? ›

If this happened, it wouldn't take long for the common water supply to become unsanitary under these conditions. The polluted water supply would kill aquatic life, further reducing the available food supply. Water-borne diseases, such as diarrhea, would spread.

Why is freshwater decreasing? ›

The world's changing climate has been linked to an increased incidence of droughts that can greatly diminish freshwater supplies in a region. The historic drought in California has depleted the Sacramento and San Joaquin river basins by an estimated 11 trillion gallons below normal seasonal levels.

What is the current situation of water in Pakistan? ›

Pakistan is facing a serious water crisis. The country is rapidly moving from being classified as water “stressed” to water “scarce”—and with its annual water availability fall below 1,000 cubic metres per person, it may in fact have already crossed this threshold.

Why does Pakistan need more dams? ›

By providing a place for rainfall to collect during the wet season, since it often doesn't seep into the soil due to the preparation of the land over the years from agriculture, dams allow Pakistan to simultaneously guard against floods and increase the water it has available.

What percent of Pakistan is water? ›

Water supply and sanitation in Pakistan
Pakistan: Water and Sanitation
Water coverage (broad definition)3.97% (2020) Safely managed: 35.84% Basic: 54.31% Limited: 3.82%
Sanitation coverage (broad definition)45% (2020)
Continuity of supply (%)Mostly intermittent in urban areas
17 more rows

Videos

1. What happens when our water dries up? | DW Documentary
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