Voice of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa
Thursday, December 1, 2022

Water scarcity in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP)

PROF. AMJAD HUSSAIN SHAH

According to International Monetary Fund (IMF), Pakistan stands third in the world among countries facing severe water shortage that is likely to reach its peak by 2025. Global warming has inflicted huge problems for Pakistan as our Himalayan glaciers are melting at an intimidating pace which poses enormous threat to the survival of people in the next two or three decades.

Beautiful Swat valley, though generally rich in water resourcefulness, has been facing an underground recession in water levels. Towns like Mingora, Charbagh, Kabal, and suburbs are facing critical water shortages due to rapid expansion in population and deforestation. Even the natural springs are drying up quite rapidly. Everywhere people are drilling to get an individual source of clean drinking water which is leading to a considerable menace in the days to come in the Malakand division.

Several other areas of KP have also victim of this problem. The worst-hit areas in this regard are Laki Marwat, Karak, and Tank. The Marwat canal has been closed for approximately the last twenty years. This has caused an acute water shortage in Laki Marwat. River Gambila has been deficient in water. This situation has badly affected agricultural production in the region. Karak district has been facing difficulties in the accessibility of drinking water as most open wells and tube wells have dried up due to either recession in underground water levels or disproportionate drilling which is adding more to the water shortage.

The worst-hit villages include Takht Nasrati and its outskirts. If the authorities don’t exercise discrete planning and execution of constructing tube wells, therefore, the water accessibility will surely deteriorate in the been next few years.

Power failures are also affecting the water supply in the Karak region. Salty water has been adding fire to the fuel. Whereas, the Tank region suffers a shortage of water due to lack of water reservoirs.  Almost all regions of KP are suffering underground water level recession which is creating an alarming sign for the future.

Pakistan receives 145 million acre-feet through its rivers out of which 105 million acre-feet of water goes wasted as it cannot be stored. We need 40 million acre-feet to fulfill our agricultural and domestic needs. Colorado River’s annual flow is 10 million acre feet. Storage capacity on the river is 60 million acre feet, 6 times its total yearly flow. The river serves 7 US states and Mexico. The Nile has an annual flow of 40 million acre feet with a storage capacity of 123 million acre feet, 3 times its total yearly flow.

Pakistan’s reported storage capacity stands at 13-15 million acre feet. Our canal diversion is almost 100 million acre feet. Imagine what we can potentially do with all this water stored and utilized properly. Our fragile economy can really boost with it. Regrettably, we don’t have sufficient dams to hold this abundant amount of water. Even though dams are being constructed which include Mohamand Dam, Diamer Basha Dam, Balakot hydro Project, Bisham Dam, Zeibi Dam (Karak), and Cherat Dam, but these are not enough. This year since April 2022, Tarbela Dam, Khan Pur Dam, Kundal Lake (Swabi), and Tanda Dam are facing a 38 to 48 percent water shortage due to little rainfall in the country as compared to previous years. Population growth, deforestation, and unplanned urbanization are some other factors that also add to the growing need for drinking water. Lack of awareness among the Govt. stakeholders, who deal with such crises, is also one of the factors responsible for water shortage crises.

The solution to this frightening situation of water shortage generally in Pakistan and specifically in KP lies in the agreement to the construction of the long-delayed and politically victimized project of Kalabagh Dam, Diamer Basha Dam, Balakot hydro Project, Bisham Dam, Zeibi Dam (Karak), and Cherat Dam, but these are not enough. This year since April 2022, Tarbela Dam, Khan Pur Dam, Kundal Lake (Swabi), and Tanda Dam are facing a 38 to 48 percent water shortage due to little rainfall in the country as compared to previous years. Population growth, deforestation, and unplanned urbanization are some other factors that also add to the growing need for drinking water. Lack of awareness among the Govt. stakeholders, who deal with such crises, is also one of the factors responsible for water shortage crises.

The solution to this frightening situation of water shortage generally in Pakistan and specifically in KP lies in the agreement to the construction of the long-delayed and politically victimized project of Kalabagh.

Dam alongside the construction of water reservoirs. If the nation has to settle the water shortage issue on firm grounds, the above-mentioned dam must be constructed on a priority basis otherwise we will move from bad to the worst shortly. Building dams is only one aspect of tackling Pakistan’s water crisis.

We need to begin working on water conservation and the introduction of less water-intensive irrigation techniques too. This has to be a multi-pronged strategy. Furthermore, plantation needs to be enhanced to receive more rainfalls as currently, our country gets 240 mm of rainfall per year. The water management boards should come up with the construction of reservoirs to preserve rainwater to be utilized for agricultural needs. Our irrigation techniques also need to be developed alongside change in our water habits.

Note: The Author is an Assistant Professor in Cadet College Swat

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