loader

PR Comments


Photo Source: Dawn

Pakistan Reader# 350, 18 May 2022

Effects of Climate Change: Problems of groundwater depletion and beyond



Decreasing groundwater and desertification, Himalayan floods and inter-provincial risk sharing will become climate change-induced problems

Ankit Singh

On 17 May, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif set up a task force on climate change to develop a comprehensive strategy to mitigate the effects of climate change on Pakistan. He was informed that climate change was the main reason for the intense heat-wave and Pakistan being the fifth most vulnerable country in the world in terms of climate change.

Pakistan faces multifaceted effects of climate change ranging from seasonal variations to conflicts over water resources. The following three main issues are likely to aggravate forcing adaptation rather than mitigation as the only way forward in the short term.

The problem of water scarcity
According to World Bank (WB), Indus Basin Irrigation System (IBIS) is the largest contiguous surface water irrigation system in the world. IBIS is critical to recharging the groundwater due to seepage through canals and barrages, it provides 70 per cent of domestic water nationally. According to the WB report titled, ‘Groundwater in Pakistan’s Indus Basin: Present and Future Prospects’, groundwater has transitioned over the 20th century, from being barely considered at the beginning of the century, to becoming a nuisance mid-century, and now forming the backbone of Pakistan’s domestic water supply and agriculture.

Various reports by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources (PCRWR) also warn of an absolute water scarcity by 2025. Being one of the most water-intensive countries, the per capita water availability from 1500 cubic meters in 2009 to 1038 cubic meters in 2021. The problem, according to IMF, lies in underpricing of canal water, recovering only a quarter of annual operating and maintenance costs.

Agriculture, which consumes almost all annual available surface water, is largely untaxed. With increasing population, urbanization and pesticide-intensive farming, the affluents will be a more saline and increased towards soil desertification. Also, there is a bigger threat of damage to the ecosystem of IBIS, which is home to the ancient Indus dolphin.

Floods and melting of glaciers
According to projections by Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in a report, ‘Sixth Assessment Report on Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability', the Indus, Ganga and Brahmaputra River basins, will see an increase in river ‘runoff’ by 2050 and 2100.  The Indus River ‘runoff’ will increase by 7-12 per cent by 2050 as the Himalayan glaciers have lost more mass since 2000 than in the entire twentieth century. This means rapid flooding in downstream areas.

Recently on 11 May, the Hassanabad bridge in Gilgit-Baltistan on Karakoram Highway collapsed after a heatwave caused a glacial lake to release large amounts of water into a stream. Similar Himalayan floods in past years have claimed lives and further caused infrastructure damage in Pakistan’s remote areas. According to the meteorological department of Pakistan, April was the hottest place on earth and in the history with 50.2 Celsius. April is unusual for such high temperatures in Pakistan and the effect was felt across the Punjab plains which come under the watershed of the Indus River. According to Global Food Policy Report 2022, summer heatwaves are projected to increase at a rate of 0.71 days per decade in the country. In India, it is estimated to triple or quadruple by 2100. The poor of the subcontinent needs to brace themselves for tumultuous and scorching times ahead, and therein lies conflict-prone tendencies due to the shared geography between Pakistan and the Asian subcontinent.

The interprovincial conflicts due to lack of water resources
On 15 May, a joint team led by the federal Water Resources Ministry reported at least 13,000 cusecs of water released from the Taunsa barrage for Sindh didn’t reach Guddu contrary to a claim by the Indus River System Authority (IRSA). A member of the team explained that the claim of 60,000 cusecs of flows being released from Taunsa for Sindh was not correct either due to two reasons, either there is misreporting at Taunsa or the water is being drawn in Punjab. This vindication by Sindh seeps into more mistrust within provinces and broadens the lack of trust between Punjab and Sindh in Pakistan. However, no media has given adequate coverage already in the drought-ridden province of Balochistan. The lack of representation and expression for Balochistan will increase dissent within the masses of Balochistan province. Pakistan has over time blamed India for building new dams on the Indus river and contesting Indus Water Treaty.

In conclusion, the climate change-induced socio-environmental problems are common in the subcontinent and there is an urgent requirement for regional governance on environmental conservation and accountability. India and Pakistan stand at a juncture where they can leapfrog towards a common framework on mitigation and adaptation to climate change with or without historical anchorage. The Indus Water Treaty was a moment of acknowledgement to rise above the partition. The time is now ripe for one more mutually conserving policy vis a vis watershed governance in the subcontinent. 

References
Shah Meer Baloch, “Water crisis: Why is Pakistan running dry?,” DW, 7 June 2018
Lucy Lytton, “Managing Groundwater Resources in Pakistan’s Indus Basin,” The World Bank, 25 March 2021
PM Sets Up Task Force On Climate Change Amid Glacier Melting,” The Nation, 17 May 2022
Amin Ahmed, “Pakistan's water crisis to deepen with climate change,” Dawn, 13 July 2021
Pakistan, India must brace for even worse heatwaves,” Pakistan Today, 7 May 2022
Pakistan becomes hottest place on earth in April,” Dawn, 3 May 2022
Bhavya Sukheja, “On Camera, Pakistan's Hassanabad Bridge Collapses After Heatwave Triggers Floods,” NDTV, 11 May 2022
Rajat Ghai, “Ganga, Brahmaputra, Indus water levels to rise by 2050: New IPCC report,” Down To Earth, 1 March 2022
Kalbe Ali, “‘Per capita water availability in Pakistan has decreased by 400pc’,” Dawn, 13 July 2021
Muhammad Hussain Khan, “Sindh claim of ‘missing flows’ found to be correct,” Dawn, 16 May 2022

Recent Publications

PR Comments
PR Comments
Pakistan This Week
Pakistan This Week
PR Comments
PR Comments
PR Short Notes
PR Short Notes
PR Comments
PR Comments
Pakistan This Week
PR Comments
PR Short Notes
PR Short Notes
PR Comments
PR Comments
PR Comments
PR Comments
PR Comments
PR Comments
PR Comments
Pakistan This Week
PR Comments
PR Comments
PR Comments
PR Comments
Pakistan This Week
PR Comments
PR Comments
PR Comments
PR Comments
Pakistan This Week
PR Comments
PR Comments
PR Comments
PR Comments
PR Comments
PR Comments
PR Short Notes
PR Comments
PR Comments
PR Comments
PR Short Notes
PR Comments
PR Comments
PR Short Notes
PR Short Notes
PR Comments
PR Comments
PR Comments
PR Comments
PR Comments
PR Short Notes
PR Comments
PR Comments
PR Comments
PR Comments
PR Short Notes
PR Comments
PR Short Notes
PR Short Notes
PR Comments
PR Comments
PR Short Notes
PR Comments
PR Short Notes
PR Short Notes
PR Short Notes
PR Short Notes
PR Comments
PR Comments
PR Comments
PR Comments
PR Comments
PR Short Notes
PR Comments
PR Short Notes
PR Comments
PR Short Notes
PR Comments
PR Comments
PR Short Notes
PR Short Notes
PR Comments
PR Short Notes
PR Short Notes
PR Short Notes
PR Comments
PR Comments
PR Comments
PR Comments
PR Short Notes
PR Short Notes
PR Comments
PR Comments
PR Short Notes
PR Comments
PR Comments
PR Comments
PR Short Notes
PR Short Notes
PR Comments
PR Comments
PR Comments
PR Comments
PR Short Notes
PR Short Notes
PR Comments
PR Comments
PR Comments
PR Comments
PR Comments
PR Comments
PR Short Notes
PR Short Notes
PR Short Notes
PR Short Notes
PR Short Notes
PR Comments
PR Short Notes
PR Comments
PR Short Notes
PR Short Notes
PR Short Notes
PR Short Notes
PR Short Notes
PR Short Notes
PR Short Notes
PR Short Notes
PR Short Notes
PR Short Notes
PR Short Notes
PR Short Notes
PR Short Notes
PR Short Notes
PR Insights
PR Short Notes
PR Short Notes
PR Short Notes
PR Short Notes
PR Short Notes
PR Short Notes
PR Short Notes
PR Short Notes
PR Short Notes
PR Short Notes
PR Short Notes
PR Short Notes
PR Short Notes
PR Short Notes
PR Insights
PR Short Notes
PR Short Notes
PR Comments
PR Insights
PR Insights
PR Reports
PR Comments
PR Comments
PR Insights
Pakistan This Week
Pakistan This Week
Pakistan This Week
PR Insights
PR Insights
PR Comments
Pakistan This Week
PR Comments
PR Insights
PR Comments
PR Comments
Pakistan This Week
PR Insights
Pakistan This Week
Pakistan This Week
PR Comments
PR Insights
PR Insights
PR Comments
PR Comments
Pakistan This Week
PR Insights
Pakistan This Week
PR Insights
PR Insights
PR Insights
Pakistan This Week
PR Insights
PR Insights
PR Insights
PR Insights
PR Insights
PR Insights
PR Comments
PR Insights
PR Insights
PR Insights
PR Insights
Pakistan This Week
PR Insights
PR Insights
PR Insights
PR Insights
Pakistan This Week
PR Insights
Pakistan This Week
PR Insights
PR Short Notes
Pakistan This Week
PR Insights
Pakistan This Week
PR Insights
Pakistan This Week
PR Insights
Pakistan This Week
PR Insights
Pakistan This Week
PR Insights
Pakistan This Week
Pakistan This Week
Pakistan This Week
Pakistan This Week
PR Comments
PR Comments
PR Comments
PR Comments
Analysis
Analysis
PR Review
PR Comments
PR Review
Brief
Analysis
Analysis
Analysis
Analysis
Analysis
Brief
Analysis
Analysis
Analysis
PR Comments
PR Comments
Analysis
Analysis
Analysis
Analysis
Analysis
Analysis
Analysis
Analysis
Analysis
Analysis
Brief
Analysis
Analysis
Analysis
Analysis
Analysis
Analysis
Analysis
Analysis
PR Review
Analysis
Analysis
Analysis
Analysis
Analysis
Brief
Analysis
Brief
Analysis
Brief
Analysis
Analysis
Analysis
Analysis
Analysis
Analysis
Analysis
Analysis
Analysis
Forecast
Analysis
Analysis
Analysis
Forecast
PR Comments
PR Comments
PR Comments
PR Comments
PR Comments
PR Comments
PR Comments
PR Comments
Brief
PR Comments
PR Comments
PR Comments
PR Comments
PR Comments
Brief
Brief
Forecast
Update
Analysis
Analysis
Analysis
PR Comments
Analysis
PR Comments
Brief
Analysis
Brief
Analysis
Analysis
Analysis
Analysis
Analysis
PR Comments
Analysis
PR Comments
Analysis
PR Comments
Analysis