Realizing the gravity of the situation, experts have described water as ‘Blue Gold’ and every year, on March 22, World Water Day is observed with some particular theme, to create awareness among the people for the prudent use of water and to emphasize the need for better policies, laws and steps regarding water. This year’s theme is ‘water and food security.
According to the World Health Organization, 1.2 billion people are currently living in those regions of the world, where water is scarce, and 700 million people living in 43 countries of the world are facing water scarcity. It means that the annual per capita availability of water in these countries is less than 1000 cubic meters. According to the 2010 Water Security Risk Index of an international organization named Meplecroft, among the ten countries with the least secure supplies of water, Somalia is the first and Syria the tenth. Pakistan stands at #6 in this index. United Nations has predicted that by the year 2025, 1.8 billion people would be living in those regions or countries of the world which would be facing severe shortage of water (absolute water scarcity). At that time, two-third of the world’s population would be living under stress condition due to water shortage.
‘World Water Day’ has been observed on March 22 since 1993 when the United Nations General Assembly declared March 22 as World Day for Water. This day was first formally proposed in Agenda 21 of the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Realizing the gravity of the situation, experts have described water as ‘Blue Gold’ and every year, on March 22, World Water Day is observed with some particular theme, to create awareness among the people for the prudent use of water and to emphasize the need for better policies, laws and steps regarding water. This year’s theme is ‘water and food security.’ The two major challenges of our time are producing an additional amount of food and arranging an additional supply of water to meet the requirements of the rapidly increasing population of the world. The seriousness of these challenges can be imagined from the facts given in the United Nations third World Water Development Report published in 2009. According to the report, population of the world is increasing by 80 million annually. An additional supply of 64 billion cubic meters of water is needed each year for these 80 million new inhabitants of the world. In the same way, United Nations International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) has stated that by the year 2025, water resources of the world would be required to assist an agricultural system capable of producing food and meeting other requirements of the additional 2.7 billion inhabitants of the earth who would be born by that time.
According to experts, the daily water requirement of a person is two to four liters. But two thousand to five thousand liters of water are required to produce the daily food of one person. 70 per cent of the world’s water is currently being used for agriculture and 22 per cent for industry. The remaining 8 per cent is being consumed for domestic purposes. According to the United Nations Environment Programme, the total amount of fresh usable water in the world is two hundred thousand square kilometers, which is less than one per cent of the total fresh water resources. 54 per cent of it is being used by man.
During the last 50 years, there has been 60 per cent decrease in the per capita availability of water, because of the indiscreet use of water and growing population of the world. According to Dr. Zakir Hussain, the Vice-Chancellor of G.C. University Faisalabad, the per capita availability of water which was 16800 cubic meters in 1950, had been reduced to 6800 cubic meters by the year 2000. This reduction process is still going on uninterrupted. Our water resources which are depleting on account of human pressures and environmental factors are still being used to produce that amount of food which is quite sufficient for everyone, because the number of per capita calories being produced by the world’s agriculture is 17 per cent more than that of 20 years ago. This amount is sufficient to provide at least 2720 calories to everyone in the world daily. But the main problem is that most of the people in the world do not have proper land for cultivation and sufficient money for buying their required food. Moreover, the soaring prices of food items are further worsening the situation for them.
According to the World Bank estimates, by the year 2009, the daily per capita income of 11847 million people in the world was 1.25 dollars or less than that. As a natural consequence, they could get only that amount of food which could enable them to keep their body and soul together. Explaining this situation, United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has stated that by the year 2010, 925 million people in the world did not have enough to eat. The current population of the world is 7 billion and if seen in this context, 13.1 per cent of the people in the world are facing hunger. In other words, one out of every seven persons can only get less than 1800 calories daily. 65 per cent of these hunger stricken people live in only seven countries: India, China, Democratic Republic of Congo, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Pakistan and Ethiopia. According to FAO, 277 million hectares of land are being irrigated by the seventy per cent of the world’s water being used for agriculture. It is 20 per cent of the world’s total cultivated land and shares in the world’s 40 per cent of food production. The remaining 80 per cent cultivated land is irrigated by rain water. Inter-governmental Panel on Climate change has predicted that the yield from rain dependent agriculture might be reduced by 50 per cent by the year 2020. It is mainly due to climatic changes and decrease in rainfall. Another challenge for agriculture is posed by water logging and salinity. The outdated and ineffective methods of irrigation are causing immense wastage of water and severe loss of land productivity.
According to World Water Assessment Programme, ten per cent of the world’s total irrigated area has been hit by water logging and salinity. Experts are of the view that growing needs for water for producing the much needed additional production of food, outdated methods of irrigation and climatic changes are the major challenges in the way of attaining food security all over the world. Countries facing such challenges have already been hit by food security risks.
According to the food security risk index of Meplecroft, among the 163 countries of the world, Afghanistan faces the worst food security risk. It is followed by the Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundi. Pakistan stands at #30 in this index. But experts have warned that in the times to come, Pakistan may be included among the first few countries mentioned in the index. The reason is that Pakistan which is now the world’s sixth most populous country is likely to become the fourth most populous country of the world by the year 2050.
According to the Economic Survey of Pakistan 2010-11, the country’s population had reached 177.1 million by the month of July 2011. At the moment, Pakistan’s population is increasing at the rate of 2.5 per cent annually. In other words, 3.5 million people are being added to the country’s population each year. By the year 2030, an increase of 36.67 per cent is expected in the country’s population, which will be around 240 million at that time. Quite naturally, an additional supply of food and clean drinking water would be required for these 70 million new inhabitants of our country. But the water scenario of our dear homeland is telling us a totally different story.
According to a dossier ‘Hydro Potential in Pakistan’ issued by WAPDA on November 11, the annual per capita availability of water in Pakistan which was 5260 cubic meters in 1951, was reduced to 1038 cubic meters in 2010. In the year 2012, the per capita availability of water is expected to be 1000 cubic meters. In this way, Pakistan would be included in the list of countries facing water scarcity. This grim situation is the outcome of the fact that there is no general consensus in our country about the strategies to be evolved for resolving the issue of water shortage. As a result, no major water reservoirs have been built in the country for a long time. Besides this, the storage capacity in the old water reservoirs is also decreasing with the passage of time. At the time when Tarbela, Mangla and Chashma Dams were built in Pakistan, the country’s water storage capacity was 15.74 million acre feet, which according to WAPDA, was reduced to 12.10 million acre feet by the year 2010. By the year 2025, these dams would have lost 37 per cent of their water storage capacity. It means that their water storage capacity would be reduced by 6.27 million acre feet by that time. Agriculture makes up 20.4 per cent of Pakistan’s GDP. 41.33 per cent of our labour force is associated with this sector. For this very reason, 69 per cent of the country’s water is being used for agricultural activities. 23 per cent of our water is used in the industrial sector, while the remaining 8 per cent is consumed for domestic needs.
According to a dossier released by WAPDA, Pakistan’s total arable land is 72.70 million acres, out of which 52.31 million acres of land are under cultivation. 47.62 million acres of this land are being irrigated by all sorts of means, while 27 million acres of land are being irrigated by canals. Out of 155 million acre feet of water available on the earth’s surface in Pakistan, 105 million acre feet of water is annually used for irrigation. 48 million acre feet of water is drawn out from beneath the earth’s surface by means of tube wells. Less than 15 per cent of water being given to the crops is directly obtained from rains. Despite such bounties of Nature, the most shocking aspect of our canal system is that 62 per cent of our total 65 million acre feet of canal water is annually wasted in the system before reaching the crops. To make the matters worse, we are still using old and outdated methods of irrigating crops and are cultivating those crops which require a great deal of water. In the United Nations World Water Development Report 2009, Pakistan is therefore, included in the list of those countries which use the maximum amount of water in terms of quantity. Other countries included in this list are India, China, United States of America, Japan, Thailand, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Mexico and
Global Water Resources
The total volume of water on Earth is about 1.4 billion km3 (cubic kilometers). The volume of freshwater resources is around 35 million km3, or about 2.5 percent of the total volume.
Of these freshwater resources, about 24 million km3 or 70 percent is in the form of ice and permanent snow cover in mountainous regions, the Antarctic and Arctic regions.
Around 30 percent of the world’s freshwater is stored underground in the form of groundwater (shallow and deep groundwater basins up to 2 000 metres, soil moisture, swamp water and permafrost). This constitutes about 97 percent of all the freshwater that is potentially available for human use.
Freshwater lakes and rivers contain an estimated 105 000 km3 or around 0.3 percent of the world’s freshwater.
The total usable freshwater supply for ecosystems and humans is about 200 000 km3 of water less than 1 percent of all freshwater resources.
Source: United Nations Environment
Russia. In the list of six South Asian countries whose statistics are available, Pakistan stands at #2. Maldives is at the top of the list, followed by Pakistan, Srilanka, Nepal, India and Bangladesh. According to the National Water Footprint Accounts 2011, released by UNESCO’s Institute for Water Education, Pakistan’s annual per capita water footprint is 1331 cubic meters; whereas the world’s annual per capita water footprint is 1385 cubic meters. In these circumstances, when our country is already hit by water scarcity, it cannot afford to waste its water so recklessly.
The number of per capita availability of calories in Pakistan has increased. It is evident from the Economic Survey of Pakistan 2010-11. According to it, the number of daily per capita availability of calories increased from 2078 in 1949-50 to 2420 calories in 2010-11. In other words, there has been 16.45 per cent increase in the per capita availability of calories during the last sixty years. But in spite of that, a large number of Pakistanis are still facing malnutrition and food insecurity. It is mainly due to the inflation, increasing price of food items and poverty, as stated by the Food Security Risk Index.
The Human Development Report 2011 prepared by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) states that the daily income of 22.6 per cent of Pakistan’s population is 1.25 dollars or less than that. How is it possible to buy expensive food with such small income? This grim scenario has been aptly depicted by the facts given in Pakistan National Nutrition Survey 2011. According to this survey, 60 per cent of the country’s population is facing food insecurity. The nutritional status of our people has also been reduced during the last decade. According to FAO’s ‘The State of Food Insecurity in the World’ 2011, 25 per cent of Pakistan’s population is facing malnutrition. In 2011, International Food Policy Research Institute prepared its Global Hunger Index. This index mentions 81 countries whose score is more than 5. Pakistan stands at #59 in this index on account of its alarming score of 20.7. The scale given by the Institute for measuring the intensity of hunger has categorized the score up to 4.9 as ‘low, 5 to 9.9 as ‘moderate’ 10 to 19.9 as ‘serious’ and 20 to 29.9 as ‘alarming’ and 30 and above that as ‘extremely alarming.’ With reference to its score, Pakistan is included in the ‘alarming’ category.
The condition of water scarcity and food insecurity in Pakistan can further deteriorate in the times to come, because FAO has warned that by the year 2030, the snow on the Himalayan Mountains which provides a considerable amount of water to Asian countries for agriculture, would be reduced by 20 per cent. It is of utmost importance for us to be fully aware of this critical situation, to be better able to cope with any possible serious crisis in future. It would be the fundamental point of our progress.