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Friday, July 19, 2024  
13 Muharram 1446  

Pakistan goes from water-stressed to water-scarce status

Outlines water planning in Economic Survey 2023-24
Representational image. Reuters
Representational image. Reuters

Pakistan has faced a shift from water-stressed to water-scarce status due to various factors, including population growth, industrial expansion, inefficient irrigation, unsustainable groundwater use, inadequate storage, low water productivity, poor efficiency, and contamination of water resources. This has led to both quantitative and qualitative water losses.

Pakistan has outlined the water sector’s long-term planning, as outlined in the Economic Survey 2023-24, and acknowledges these issues based on the National Water Policy.

The plan has adopted the Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) approach, aligning with the policy’s objectives.

There is a connection between water, food, climate, and energy security that has become more evident in the impending water crisis, Business Recorder reported.

The comprehensive plan addressed this nexus, guided by principles of equity, efficiency, affordability, participatory decision-making, environmental sustainability, and practicability, in line with Vision 2025 and the National Water Policy in the Northern Areas.

Pakistan’s rainfall has varied significantly in quantity, timing, and spatial distribution, ranging from under 100 mm in the Lower Indus Plain to over 750 mm near the foothills of the Upper Indus Plain.

The country relied on the three western rivers of the Indus (Kabul, Jhelum, and Chenab), while the three eastern tributaries (Ravi, Sutlej, and Beas) were allocated exclusively to India. Pakistan receives approximately 2.66 million acre-feet (MAF) of water from these eastern rivers and an additional 3.33 MAF of runoff generated within its catchments.

The Kabul River has contributed 21 MAF to Pakistan’s total surface water, and the Indus River System receives an average annual inflow of about 146 to 150 MAF, predominantly sourced from snow and glacial melting.

The current water availability at canal head works is about 97.51 MAF, with estimated annual losses of around 50 MAF. Pakistan extracts approximately 50 to 52 MAF from aquifers, surpassing the sustainable limit of safe yield.

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Regarding vulnerability to climate change, Pakistan is ranked 5th in the Global Climate Risk Index 2023, based on weather-related events from 2000-2019.

Despite contributing less than 0.9% to total global emissions, the country demonstrated high vulnerability during the 2022 devastating floods, highlighting the urgent impact of climate change.

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Water supply


Economic Survey 2023 24

water planning