Structural measures on cards for looming water crisis in Pakistan

Structural measures on cards for looming water crisis in Pakistan

ISLAMABAD - The devastating flood events, faced by Pakistan continuously for six years from 2010 to 2015, caused annually about 22.7 MAF water loss with 54.5 MAF during super flood 2010 and 36.3 MAF during year 2015. Post Tarbela annual average of escapages below Kotri is 28.56 MAF.

These devastating flood events 2015 caused a huge loss to lives, cultivated lands and other property of people of Pakistan along with wasting precious water into sea every year.

As per prediction, there would be excessive floods and droughts in future due to climate change and tackle this issue, Pakistan needs to take structural measures (construction of dams) on war footing basis to store flood water which will not only control damage but also help meet needs during dry years (droughts) by providing stored water.

This will also help to manage energy crises by providing cheap electricity to the national grid. At present, Pakistan is again facing droughts causing lesser rainfall and reduced river inflows as an impact of climate change.

The drought has caused severe water shortages in the country and the estimated water shortage for irrigation supplies during current Rabi season is about 38 %. Sources at Water Resources Division while highlighting impacts of climate change on shortage of water and steps being taken to ensure and enhance water availability on Sunday said the government through its executing agency WAPDA has completed Mangla Dam Raising (2.88 MAF), Gomal Zam Dam (0.892 MAF), Satpara Dam (0.053 MAF) and Darawat Dam (0.089 MAF) to store water with a total storage capacity of 3.914 MAF.

Diamer Basha Dam (6.4 MAF), Mohmand (Munda) Dam (0.676 MAF), Kurram Tangi Dam (0.90 MAF) and Nai Gaj Dam (0.16 MAF) are at implementation stage. Moreover, projects having cumulative water storage capacity of 21.415 MAF are also at various stages of planning.

It has also been proposed that latest technology of sprinkling & drip irrigation should be used for irrigation to make economic use of precious water available in the country.

National Water Policy (NWP) has been approved which emphasizes watershed management in the country. Watershed management is a dire need of time, especially in upper areas of the country like AJK, Gilgit-Baltistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa due to its multiple benefits.

Forestation is an important component which not only controls sediment inflows but also causes more precipitation in watershed which is very useful in lean season to avoid droughts by providing increased water shortage. Forestation also results into overall low atmospheric temperatures which will reduce snow and glaciers melting causing decrease in the probability of floods in high flow seasons.

The policy also states that environmental flows shall be ensured in rivers to maintain a sound environment for conservation of river ecology, morphology, delta & coastal ecosystem and fisheries.

Ecology can preserve by several ways like conserving and improving our surrounding environment, exploiting renewable energy sources, forestation, ensuring environmental flows in rivers, establishing pollution regulation policies, restoration of destroyed natural resources as well as habitats, protection of endangered species and creating awareness, education.

Similarly, delta can be preserved by smart reservoir operations and providing sufficient water supplies regularly. For basin level management, the policy states that water demand shall be estimated for all sectors, within the Basin and outside the Basin.

The process of holistic approach to planning shall aim at accommodating a fair and stable economic and social development within an integrated drainage Basin management.

The policy also says that environmental impact assessment studies shall be carried out concurrently with project feasibility studies for selecting project scope and layout, consistent with productivity, economic viability, social acceptability and environmental sustainability.