It’s high time Pakistan takes adequate measures to stop the wastage of Indus river’s water flowing through its territory, rather than blame India for water woes.
Pakistan is a nation that needs uninterrupted supplies of abundant waters in its geographical confines to sustain the lifestyle of its citizens. An overwhelming 95% of the country’s irrigated areas lie in the Indus river basin irrigated by the bounties that the Western Rivers (Indus, Jhelum and Chenab) bring with them.
The irrigation patterns that are followed in most of these vast agricultural lands are hugely inefficient and no efforts have been made or have been initiated about now to plug colossal water leakages. There is a seize mentality that prevails across the nation, be it the farmers, politicians or the men from military who own the country, to be always on the lookout for apportioning blames for all woes to a perceived enemy outside (read India).
To look outside and blame India for all the water woes that Pakistan faces is an all-time favourite pastime. Looking within, as opposed to looking outside, is apparently a very difficult thing to conceive and trying to plug in leakages is just not thought of as a viable option to address the attendant problems.
We can try to assess the impact of inbuilt inefficiencies in the delivery and usage patterns of irrigation within Pakistan in the Indus basin. According to several estimates, both by independent government agencies within Pakistan and also by international organisations that the total quantum of water losses is about one-third of the total inflows. Let us see what it means in real terms and how it creates an acute distress among potential users (the farmers irrigating their fields) who are so often paranoid about possible water scarcity. In all, the Western Rivers bring 80.52% share of total water available in the Indus system to Pakistan and the rest of 19.48% is for use by India.
We had earlier stated that a total quantum of one-third of the total waters accruing to Pakistan are lost due to inefficiencies. Stated in another manner, this means that around 26.52% (1/3rd of 80.52) are lost to factors inbuilt by Pakistan itself. This is at least 7% more than the entire Indus water share of India allocated to it under the Indus Water Treaty (IWT).
Therefore, theoretically, even if India were to be deprived of every single drop of water that it gets from the Eastern Rivers, Pakistan will still have nowhere to go to satiate its ravenous appetite for water. On the other hand, it can mitigate the sufferings of its thirsty fields and cacophonous farmers by promoting scientific, targeted, consistent conservation water management policies, beginning with resorting to drip irrigation on a large scale.
In fact, several innovative solutions to problems to deal with availability of insufficient and scarce water have been put into practice worldwide. The cornerstone of these practices is a strict no wastage regime being put into effect by technological interventions.
Perhaps Israel is a classic example of developing most efficient technologies in the field of agriculture. It uses a vast network of computers to help the farmers at the level of individual fields to create a system of drip irrigation unparalleled anywhere else in the world. The systems put into place are extraordinarily efficient and worth every penny spent in developing them. The drip system ensures that there are virtually no leakages anywhere throughout the built systems and water supply is controlled by the computers at the levels of individual plants. These highly evolved drip irrigation systems are also utilised for providing nutrients to plants individually.
Juxtapose these systems with the primitive, wasteful and profligate manners visible throughout the water delivery systems created by Pakistan in the Indus Basin Irrigation System (IBIS). Flood irrigation entailing abundant waters into cultivated areas is still the predominant method utilised all over Punjab, Sindh and other regions of the country. In fact, the hunger and thirst for water shapes the aggressive behaviour of vast populations who are all too willing to ‘do or die’ for ensuring irrigated, as opposed to parched, fields.
The muscle power, fire power and the weapons (duly kept stock of an assortment of ammunitions) with the farming communities in Pakistan are stupendous. The large amounts of money invested in buying this weaponry could have been far, far better utilised for upgrading irrigation technologies. It is inconceivable that a militaristic approach pervasive in all organs of the society, duly fostered by repeated doses of dictators, will be absent from agricultural fields, the most basic unit of individually owned territory.