Pakistan has about 1.2 million tube wells extracting 50 million acre feet of water every year for farm irrigation. NASA satellite maps show that Pakistan is among the places worst affected by rapid depletion of groundwater.
|Water Stress Satellite Map Source: NASA|
A recent World Bank report titled "Groundwater in Pakistan’s Indus Basin : Present and Future Prospects" lays out the need for better groundwater management in Pakistan. Here are three key highlights of this reports:
1. Improved groundwater management is crucial for a healthy, wealthy, and green Pakistan. Pakistan’s Indus Basin Irrigation System is the largest artificial groundwater recharge system in the world, but the current water management paradigm doesn’t reflect it.
2. Over-abstraction, waterlogging and contamination threaten the crucial role of groundwater as a life-sustaining resource, which has cascading impacts on drought resilience, public health, and environmental sustainability.
3. For groundwater to remain a safe and reliable source of drinking water and a lifeline for tail-end farmers, a balance must be achieved between efficiency of the surface water system and sustainability of groundwater resources.
The World Bank report points to the need for better management of groundwater resources. One of the keys to groundwater management is to have an elaborate network of small dams and water reservoirs in strategic locations to recharge underground aquifers.In recent years, Pakistan has begun to address its groundwater challenges, starting with the National Water Policy 2018 which identified priorities for groundwater management.
The NWP supports significant increases in the public sector investment for the water sector by the Federal Government from 3.7% of the development budget in 2017-18 to at least 10% in 2018-19 and 20% by 2030; the establishment of an apex body to approve legislation, policies and strategies for water resource development and management, supported by a multi- sectoral Steering Committee of officials at the working level; and the creation of a Groundwater Authority in Islamabad and provincial water authorities in each of the provinces.
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