Water Crisis in Pakistan and its remedies
SOURCES OF WATER
has blessed Pakistan with abandoned water resources, with
water flowing down the Himalayas and Karakorum heights, from
the world’s largest glaciers, a free and unique bounty of
nature for this land of alluvial plains. As a result of this
natural resource, today we have the world’s marvelous and
the largest irrigation system that irrigates over 16 million
hectors of land, out of 34 million hectors of cultivable
land available. Basically we have two major sources of water
i.e. surface water & ground water.
In surface water we have three hydrologic units. First one
is Indus Basin River.
(a) Indus Basin
At the time of independence, we had about 67 maf water
available for diversion; this amount increased to about 85
maf by 1960. In 1960 Pakistan signed a water treaty “Indus
water treaty” with India, which brought major changes in the
sources of water for Pakistan. In that treaty the right of
three eastern rivers i.e. Beas, Sutlej and Ravi was given to
India. Now the Indus river basin constitutes of the mountain
basins Indus plain, Karachi plains and desert areas of Sindh.
Its principle rivers and tributaries are Indus, Shyok,
Gilgit, Astor, Siran, Kabul joined by Jhelum, Chenab and
Sutlej. It covers an area of 516,600 sq. km. its source of
water are snowing, glacier melting and rainfalls. From this
annually 141.67 maf of water is being received.
(b) Closed basin Kharan desert
It consists of areas of mountain basins of Quetta and basins
of tributaries draining in to Kharan desert. its main rivers
are Pishin Lora, Baddo Rakhshan, Mashkhel and many other
streams. It covers an area of 120,100 sq. km. its main
sources of water are rainfall and nominal snow. Here we are
getting approximately 4.5 maf of water.
(c) Makran coastal basin
Makran coastal basin constitutes of streams of Malir, Hub,
Porali, Kud, Hingol, Nai, Mashhai, Dasht, Nihing and Kech.
It covers an area of 122,400 sq. km and its main source of
water is rainfall. From this basin 0.78 maf of water.
Now coming towards groundwater sources.
The Indus plains constitute about 34 million hectors (over
85 million acres) of cultivable land. The recharge or
absorption to the ground is around 72 maf, out of which
about 48 maf is in the command of Indus basin irrigation
system (ibis). Ground water is also found in some rain-fed (barani)
lands and inter-mountain valleys at depths varying from 100
to 200 feet.
After pointing out the main sources of water, let’s have a
glance of the water available to us through them. We receive
an average of 141.67 maf of water from western rivers.
Eastern rivers contribute 8.47 maf of water. About 4 maf of
water is received from outside Indus plains. Water available
above rim stations is 5.28 maf whereas rainfalls below rim
also contribute about 14 maf of water. Also about 66.89 maf
ground water is available to us. In other words a total of
240.22 maf of water is available to us from the present
For controlling the water resources and for its effective
utilization lets have a glance at the present storages and
reservoirs / capacities:-
Pakistan is having three basic reservoirs, namely
mangla dam reservoir, Terbela dam reservoir and
Chashma barrage reservoir. more small reservoirs
like Warsak, Baran dam hub, Khanpur, Tanda, Rawal,
Simly, Bakht khan Hamal lake, Mancher lake, Kinjhar
lake and Chotiari lake Arealso included as small
storage. The storage capacity of these reservoirs is
as shown on the view foil.
I shall be discussing only the major reservoirs
(a) Terbela dam reservoir
World’s largest earth and rock filled dam was built
at Terbela on river Indus in 1976 with a gross
capacity of 11.62 maf and a live storage capacity of
9.68 maf. With the passage of time, due to silting,
24.6% of the storage has been lost and now it has a
live storage of 7.295 maf.
(b) Mangla dam
Mangla reservoir is the second major storage of
Pakistan. It was built in 1967 on river Jhelum with
a gross capacity of 5.882 maf and live storage of
5.41 maf. Again due to siltation it has lost 13.2%
of its storage and presently can store 4.636 maf of
(c) Chashma barrage
Chashma barrage is situated on river Indus and was
built in 1972 with a gross storage of 0.870 maf and
live storage of 0.717 maf. It has also reduced its
storage capacity by 39.3% and is left with a storage
capacity of 0.435 maf.
UTILIZATION OF WATER
In Pakistan we utilize the water available to us for
different purposes. The basic utilization is for
irrigation and then used for power generation,
drinking and also provided to some Industries.
Out of 240.22 maf, 172.21 maf water is utilized for
irrigation purposes as shown on the view foil. In
this the canal diversions is 105.23 maf; system
loses are 144-40; rainwater is 6.0 maf; ground water
is 41.30 and utility above rims is 5.28 maf.
(b) Power generation
Water released by the hydropower plants returns to
the river system. The reservoirs are operated on
priority bases only for irrigation. Recent increase
in thermal generation has reduced the potential
conflicts between water releases from reservoirs for
hydropower generation and irrigation. Now most of
the annual storage is utilized for irrigation and
not for hydropower, but conflicts do arise at times.
Most of the rural and urban water is supplied from
ground water through tube wells and hand pumps
except few cities like Karachi and Islamabad/Pindi.
Total urban and rural (domestic and commercial)
requirements estimated is 10-15% of the surface
water, out of which 80% return to the system,
however with degraded quality. Net consumption is
normally about 2% of the total water available.
Water is also utilized in Industries basically for
cooling purposes and also in manufacturing
processes. This utility is less than 1%.
Shortage of water
As we all know that now a days our country is facing
severe shortage of water. There are two main
reasons, one natural due to prolong drought---which
is beyond the control of a man, and the other due to
the gross negligence in the development and mis-management
of water resources. The average annual inflow of the
Indus and its tributaries is i41.67 maf, of which
97% is used in agriculture and the remaining 3% for
domestic and Industrial purposes. Out of 141.67 maf,
around 106 maf is annually diverted in to one of the
largest but in-efficient irrigation system. The
remaining 36 maf goes into the sea unused – a total
loss --. Out of 106 maf, diverted into an extensive
irrigation net work, more than 50% is lost during
the changeling and the field application before it
reaches the crop root zone.
In the years when the rainfall is normal or above,
the country generally does not face any water
shortage, where as in below average rainfall period
it does. This has happened just few weeks earlier. i
was sitting with secretary irsa, in connection of my
vision, and he said that they are reducing the quota
of punjab and sind by 5% because of no rains and
that the level of mangla has gone below dead level.
After three days i was again with him and he said
that now we are increasing the quota of all the
provinces, because we are in happy situation due to
present heavy rains and snowfalls. The planners, it
is assumed, are responsible to foresee and carry out
effective water resources development and management
planning to meet the future challenges. However,
sadly this is not practiced which ultimately lands
the state into such uncalled situations.
Impact on economy / society
As I said earlier that agriculture is our backbone
and the water flowing in the channels to the crops
is its blood line—and if there is no or less water
then we should be prepared for facing problems
economically as well as socially. According to the
estimates of federal government, the agriculture
sector would suffer a loss of about Rs. 90 billion
because of drought. Since agriculture has remained a
major source of shouldering the already crippled
economy, it has a vital role to play particularly in
terms of food security and employment of the
ever-burgeoning population of the country. It
contributes around 35 % to the gnp and employs about
44% of labor force. It also contributes 65% of our
export earning. The adverse effects of water
shortage on agriculture would have a spiraling
effect on the prevailing level of poverty.
(a) Less water means less agricultural yields and to
fulfill the food requirements of the nation, we will
be dependent on other countries.
(b) Raising livestock is the main source of
livelihood of rural areas. it is also an important
economic activity, which contributes 9.7% of gdp,
will be affected due to shortage of water.
(c) Orchards of pakistan bring home a healthy amount
of foreign exchange, which can be affected due water
(d) Due to less production of main crops, which are
wheat, cotton, sugar cane and rice, the Industries
related to them will suffer adversely.
(e) Then due to drought and more dependency on
ground water for irrigation, the water table will go
down, and this will cause water constrains to the
(f) Less agricultural outputs will compel people to
head towards urban areas for jobs, which will
increase the unemployment further.
(g) The distribution of water is controlled from the
center by irsa (Indus river system authority) as per
1991 agreement between the provinces. Now the
shortage of water will cause disputes between the
provinces, which may cause harm to the national
Pakistan is one of the poorest countries of the
world, where as on the other hand it is one of the
richest in its population increasing capabilities.
Our population has surpassed the 140 million mark by
now and is still increasing at an alarming rate of
about 3%, which definitely needs to be checked. On
the other hand the growth rate of agriculture is
decreasing due to water shortages. To keep up the
pace of agricultural growth comparable to population
growth, we must bring additional lands under
cultivation. in order to achieve the required growth
targets in agriculture, we needed an estimated
amount of 149 maf in 2000 and will need 215 maf year
2013 and about 277 maf by year 2025. this scenario
warns that pakistan has already has slided from a
water happy country to a water scarce country in
1994 and already shortage of over 40 maf persists,
which may increase to a shortage of 108 maf and 151
maf by years 2013 and 2025 respectively. This water
shortage has been threatening the federal structure
of the country. Our reluctance to treat water as an
economic good and inadequate recognition of the
environmental concerns associated with current
practices have led us towards this catastrophic
situation. Further more its remedy is an urgent one,
otherwise it could trigger water riots and finally
lead to social, if not political, catastrophe. Since
no additional water is available, it is the time to
recognize our responsibilities and start taking
steps in the right direction.
So for overcoming the water crises following steps
The national water strategy must be based upon two
essential elements covering
The water development strategy
is largely based upon construction of new storage reservoirs
where as the water management strategy will help in reducing
the present losses.
In this construction of following dams should start
It would be located 200 miles upstream of terbela on river
Indus. its gross storage capacity would be 7.3 maf and live
storage 5.7 maf. Its power generation capacity would be 3360
(b) Kalabagh dam
Kalabagh dam site is located 132 miles down stream of
Terbela. Its gross storage would be 6.1 maf. It would have a
power generation of 3600 mw. Here I shall further suggest
that the construction of Kalabagh be under taken only, once
all the provinces are convinced and willing to cooperate.
It would be located on the right bank of Chashma –
Jhelum link canal, along the western bank of river Jhelum.
Its reservoir would have gross capacity of 2.3 maf.
Raised Mangla dam
in this the present Mangla dam would be further raised by 40
ft and thus increasing its gross capacity to 9.5 maf. In
addition, its power generation capacity would be increased
(e) Mirani dam
The dam is located on Dasht River about 48 km of Turbat town
in Mekran division. Its main objective is to provide water
for irrigation. Its gross storage is 0.30 maf.
(f) Gomalzam dam
It is located at Khajori Kach on Gomal River in South
Waziristan, about 75 miles from Dera Ismail Khan. Its main
objective will be to irrigate 132000 acres of land, power
generation of 17.4 mw and flood control.
From these projects we shall be able to store additional
20maf of water.
Managing water resources is the need of time, and we in
Pakistan already short of water, must chalk out a strategy.
In this endeavor can be made to save around 1.3 maf of water
from existing losses. following is recommended in this
Presently the losses occur due to
seepage, infiltration and leakages etc. seepage results in
water logging and these losses can be reduced or eliminated
by lining the canals.
In addition, people should be educated to
conserve water by cooperation.
Further more government should make laws
on water conservation, like many western countries.
The second largest contribution to the
total water available comes from the groundwater sources.
This source has been exploited and very well used by public
and private tube wells. It can still provide over nine maf
of water. This source can be exploited and judiciously used
for irrigation purposes. How ever in some areas ground water
is rapidly depleting due to excessive pumpage, authorities
should take control in such areas to save them from
Efforts be made to convert the present
rotation based irrigation system to demand oriented system.
The modern irrigation techniques, that is
trickling, sprinkling etc, which have a potential to improve
water distribution and its utilization.
Authorities should take appropriate steps
to curb the illegal extraction of water and ensure its
Presently irrigation department has
failed to stop the illegal theft and extraction; thus
irrigation distribution system needs to be privatized
through water user associations.
In addition, water, now-a-days is
supplied to farmers at a very negligible cost and that is
why they do not treat water as a precious resource;
therefore there is a need to increase the water prices to
make irrigators realize the importance of this asset.
Farmer’s organizations, water user
association, and private sector be involved in construction,
operation, and maintenance of the irrigation system. Such
associations are conceived as a mechanism for creating a
cooperative frame work for improvement of watercourses.
The problems faced by the water sector in the country
are many, acute and serious and it is also known that we can
generate about 83 maf of more water. Therefore, building of
more reservoirs and an effective management strategy are the
needs of time. Also implementation of the recommendations
will enable the country to meet the challenges, and achieve
the objectives of integrated, efficient, environmentally and
financially sustainable development and management of
limited water resources. At the same time it will enable us
to utilize every drop of our water for our bright future.
Courtesy: CSS Forum