Water insecurity

FOR many, climate change conjures up images of forsaken polar bears floating on icebergs made from melting ice caps, or hurricanes in the Caribbean turning island paradises into island hells. But the ones who are most affected worldwide are those with the least resources in fragile environments — including people in places like Pakistan.

For people in Pakistan, perhaps the most immediate and serious impact is on water availability. According to a report by the World Resources Institute, Pakistan is on track to become the most water-stressed country in the region, and 23rd in the world, by the year 2040. 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.

Pakistan’s economy is the most water-intensive worldwide, according to an IMF report. According to the Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources, Pakistan may run dry by 2025 if the present conditions continue. They claim that the country touched the ‘water stress line’ in 1990, and crossed the ‘water scarcity line’ in 2005, more than a decade ago, and that in relation to the scale of the problem relatively little has been done to improve the use or supply of water.

The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation measures the pressure on national water resources by calculating water withdrawal as a percentage of total renewable water resources (TRWR). Stresses are considered high if the TRWR value is above 25 percent. Pakistan’s water pressure amounts to a staggering 74pc. This level of pressure is high, even when compared with neighbouring countries, such as Iran at 67pc, India at 40pc, Afghanistan at 31pc, and China at 19.5pc.

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