Worsening water shortage

March 20, 2013

By  Dr Ahmad Saeed Bhatti

March 22 as the World Water Day
March 22 as the World Water Day

The United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) held at Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1992, declared March 22 as the World Water Day.

The day is celebrated to mark the implementation of the UN recommendations (Earth Summit Agenda 21), i.e. to work out proposals and arrange activities to emphasize reduction in wasteful consumption of resources such as water.

Altogether water – liquid, solid (ice) and gas on earth (the water planet) – and the atmosphere is estimated to be 336 million cubic meter.

And given the population of seven billion people, every person would receive about one trillion gallon each, if divided equally (Professor Karrie Lynn Pennington and Thomas V. Cech). It could, therefore, be no longer a problem.

Although the total volume of groundwater on earth is small, it is 35 times greater than the volume of water in all fresh water lakes and rivers of the world (c.f. Karen Arms).

All rivers are, however, the result of precipitation; be it Amazon, Mississippi, Nile or the Indus. Nevertheless, as emphasised at the Ministerial Conference on Water Security in the Twentieth Century held at The Hague in 2000, there is a water crisis, and it is the bad management of water that has caused billions of people and the environment to suffer alike.

While the countries of former Soviet bloc were considered to be the most polluted ones, water pollution appears now to have spread throughout the world. This has, thus, prompted all stakeholders -the public, NGOs and the civil societies in various countries – to attempt to save water from pollution by garbage, industrial effluents and agricultural runoff.

The public-private partnership in cleaning the Cuyahoga River (the river had become so full of garbage that it caught fire in 1969) in Cleveland, USA, and the management partnership developed by Wagga Wagga City Council and Charles Sturt University in Australia, designated as the Global Water Smart City, is a case in point.

Further, the industry-environment nexus in Holland indicated a strong political will to contain industrial effluents for healthier management of such resources as water.

In 1989, the Dutch Government adopted a National Environmental Policy Plan (NEPP2) called the “Green Plan” to identify all major environmental problems and meet all concerned, i.e. industrialists and citizen, groups to establish the goals and timeframe for reduction in pollution.

In the face of yet greater divide between the developed and developing countries that the Doha Conference witnessed with the withdrawal of Canada from the Kyoto Protocol, the above examples may serve as guidelines for the less developed nations to rely on their own resources to manage their water systems.

The amount of water needed to manufacture a product is termed by economists as “virtual water”. For instance, for one kilogram of coffee,20,000 litres of virtual water is required;whereas, to produce one kg of paper,one million ton of steel,one megawatt-hour of electricity and a cotton T- shirt, it is 300, 215,000, 2,000 to 5,000 and 7,000 litres respectively.Thus, by getting goods manufactured in less developed countries, the developed countries make big savings in energy and water, in addition to low labour costs.

Drinking water is recognised by World Health Organisation (WHO) as the basic right of human beings. Yet, some global corporations such as Veolia, a $38 billion company in Paris and Big Water that promised more than it could in Bolivia, Argentina, Uruguay, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, South Africa and other countries; and United Water of USA have taken up marketing of water to serve more than 300 million people in the world at their cost.

The US and some European countries consume more water because firstly, by nature they are gifted with more water per square km of aquifer as compared to the countries that face a great ground water shortage; and secondly, they had the vision to plan and develop reservoirs for the preservation of rain water.

Two striking examples are the building of dams by US President Theodore Roosevelt during 30s-40s the years of dustbowl and great economic depression, and the establishment of Corps of Engineers by President Thomas Jefferson in 1802 to develop a flood control system and build water reservoirs for irrigation and drinking.

While India has already built more than a hundred dams on the Indus, Chenab and Jhelum, it now plans to build additional 30 to 35 large, 135 medium and 3,000 small dams and diversions on these rivers, which would reduce the surface of water flows in Pakistan by around 33 to 35 million acre feet annually.

While Pakistan is already facing an acute shortage of water and energy and if deprived of 34 MAF annually, this would severely destroy its economy.

As the contribution of agriculture to GDP has decreased to less than 20 percent from over 50 percent in 1947, owing to a gross diminution in cultivable land, and/or increased urbanisation and industrialisation, the population of Pakistan has, on the contrary, grown to 180 million from 32.5 million in 1947.

Further, Pakistan has over 60 percent of its land degraded, and from a potential of 42,000MW hydel capacity, it harvests a bare 6,500MW only (Robert Hathaway, Bhumika Muchhala and Michael Kugelman).

Indeed, this points to the urgency of building the Kalabagh Dam and a number of small dams (rain water reservoirs) in the country to preserve water for drinking and energy. Source, The Nation

Water  Crisis in Pakistan

Published:  Zarai Media Team

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