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Time To Wake Up

Time To Wake Up And Resolve Serious Water Crisis

Sabir Shah

At a juncture when the whole of Pakistan, especially the port city Karachi, is experiencing acute dearth of water, the men at the helm of affairs have been jolted out of a deep slumber.

The crisis is not looming——it is already there and worsening with every passing hour.

While the Press conference of a Sindh Minister Sharjeel Memon on Sunday afternoon was more of a follow-up of what the Karachi Corps Commander Lt. General Naveed Mukhtar had observed a day earlier with reference to the city’s fast-depleting water supplies, it is still heartening to note that the authorities concerned have decided to get up and initiate appropriate measures in this context to improve the availability of this most important basic need.

A couple of years ago, some relevant Pakistani government departments had hinted that the water availability in the country had plummeted from 5,300 cubic metres per person in 1950 to almost 1,000 cubic metres to touch the globally set water scarcity level, but no government functionary had moved.

It was also predicted that average agriculture produce in the country would drop 25 per cent by 2050 due to water shortage, resulting in increased poverty and hunger, but no eyebrows were raised in the cozy power corridors! Meanwhile, numerous reports from reputed institutions had pointed out that not only was the unabated over-pumping in the country depleting the ground water resource, but 5,000 million gallons of used and untreated wastewater was also being discharged into rivers and lakes——-hence polluting the source.

But all these alarming facts had fallen on deaf ears.

A research undertaken by the Jang Group and Geo Television Network, by taking into account the most recent studies of the United Nations, a renowned British risk management consultancy firm Messrs Verisk Maplecroft, the Asian Development Bank and the United States-based World Resources Institute having a staff of 450 scientists and economists, reveals that round 700 million people in 43 countries, including Pakistan, suffer from water scarcity today.

Global water use has been growing at more than twice the rate of population increase in the last century, hence leading to an increase in the number of regions that are chronically short of water.

By 2025, 1.8 billion people will be living in countries or regions with absolute water scarcity, and two-thirds of the world’s population could be living under water-stressed conditions. The United Nations has estimated that with the existing climate change scenario, almost half the world’s population will be living in areas of high water stress by 2030, including between 75 million and 250 million people in Africa.

And in addition, water scarcity in some arid and semi-arid places would displace between 24 million and 700 million people. Currently, around 1.2 billion people, or almost one-fifth of the world’s population, live in areas of physical scarcity, and 500 million people are approaching this situation.

Moreover, another 1.6 billion people, or almost one quarter of the world’s population, face economic water shortage, especially in countries that lack the necessary infrastructure to take water from rivers and aquifers.

 However, lessons can be learnt from extremely water-stressed countries like Singapore, which invests heavily in technology, international agreements, and responsible management, allowing it to meet its freshwater needs. Advanced rainwater capture systems contribute 20 percent of Singapore’s water supply, 40 percent is imported from Malaysia, grey water reuse adds 30 percent, and desalination produces the remaining 10 percent of the supply to meet the country’s total demand.

 These innovative management plans have provided a stable water supply for Singapore’s industrial, agricultural, and domestic users-even in the face of significant baseline water stress.

 According to World Health Organisation (WHO), at least 1.8 billion people worldwide are estimated to drink contaminated water.

 Research tells that nowhere on Earth is the critical inter-relationship between water and energy more evident than in the Asia-Pacific region, home to 61 per cent of the world’s people and with its population expected to reach five billion by 2050. The Asian Development Bank forecasts a massive rise in energy consumption in the Asia-Pacific region: from barely 33 per cent of global consumption to 51-56 per cent by 2035.

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